Israel has launched a search for up to four gunmen who crossed the Egyptian border and staged a deadly ambush, killing one Israeli and sparking a firefight which left two "militants" dead, the Israeli military said.
"... We are carrying out searches to ensure there are no more terrorists in Israeli territory"
- General Yoav Mordechai,
Israel's army spokesman
Monday's incident occurred around 6am local time (03:00 GMT) when a group of up to six gunmen opened fire on a convoy of vehicles carrying Israeli construction workers to a site where they are building part of the vast border fence, the army said.
"Fire was opened at Israeli workers during routine construction work on the security fence between Israel and Egypt," a spokeswoman for the army said, indicating troops had returned fire killing two of the gunmen.
Another Israeli official confirmed an Israeli civilian construction worker was also killed in the ambush.
The remaining three or four gunmen fled the scene, with troops sealing off the area and launching a massive manhunt to find them, the army said.
"Three or maybe four terrorists are still inside Israeli territory and we are currently trying to find them," the spokeswoman told the AFP news agency, indicating that the army had declared the area a closed military zone.
|Israeli troops on Sunday opened fire at areas in the Gaza Strip after rockets were fired at Israel [Reuters]
Local residents were ordered to stay inside their homes which lie several kilometres from the border and very close to the site of the ambush, officials said.
The site of the ambush lies about 30km from the southernmost point of the Gaza Strip.
General Yoav Mordechai, the army's official spokesman said a "group of terrorists" had infiltrated Israeli territory along the border and staged an ambush for the convoy.
"These terrorists opened fire and used explosive devices and also apparently used anti-tank missiles against vehicles which were transporting workers who were building the security fence along the border," he told Israel's army radio.
"Soldiers then arrived at the scene and opened fire."
"All the sector where the incident took place has been closed and we are carrying out searches to ensure there are no more terrorists in Israeli territory," he said.
The border incident occurred 48 hours after two rockets were fired from Sinai into southern Israel, hitting close to the Negev desert town of Mitzpe Ramon and near Ovda, which lies some 40km north of Eilat, causing no damage or casualties.
Overnight on Sunday, Israeli aircraft carried out a series of strikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the
enclave. Medical sources in Gaza said seven people were wounded.
To curb an influx of African migrants and boost security, Israel is building a fence along the frontier with Egypt that it
hopes to complete by the end of the year. The barrier will run most of the 266km from Eilat, on the Red Sea, up to
the Gaza Strip.
The porous desert border between Israel and Egypt has been relatively quiet for three decades after the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979. But Israel says Egypt has lost its grip on the Sinai since Hosni Mubarak's downfall.
In the most serious attack in the area since the Egyptian popular uprising, fighters crossed over the Egyptian border and killed eight Israelis in August 2011.