IDF officials admitted today that the army’s decision not to close Route 12 where Thursday’s deadly terror offensive took place – despite intelligence warnings of an imminent attack – was a mistake.
The IDF has launched a full inquiry into Thursday’s multipronged attack on the Egyptian border that killed eight Israelis and also left five Egyptian police officers dead in ensuing border-area fire exchanges.
An initial probe by the GOC Southern Command revealed that police sniper Paskal Avrahami was killed by shots fired by terrorists from the Egyptian side of the border. Egyptian security officials were hurt in the subsequent gunfight, the probe revealed.
The IDF estimates that several terrorists were deliberately operating near Egyptian security officials. The difficulty in distinguishing between the Egyptians and the terrorists added to the confusion among Israeli forces, who may have mistakenly hit Egyptian police officers.
Notably, IDF officials admitted that the decision to open Highway 12 Thursday morning was wrong. The decision, which came from Southern Command Chief Major-General Tal Russo, is attributed to a variety of considerations and authorities’ desire to allow the public to move about as usual.
Army officials said they were tipped off about an attack, but the information was not sufficient to determine when or where exactly it would take place. IDF forces did spread widely near the border, but were unable to thwart the deadly ambushes.
According to the officials, if the fence and other facilities at the border are not completed this year, intensive military operations will have to be undertaken in the region, primarily for deterrence purposes.
“Despite the grave outcome of the incident, the forces sought contact with the terrorists, acted with courage and determination, and ultimately we thwarted an attack that could have ended in a massive abduction,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Liran Hajbi, deputy commander of the Sagi Brigade.
According to Hajbi, who arrived on the scene of the clash minutes after it began and commanded the forces, the terrorists were armed with a variety of weapons and means including explosives, grenades and restraints, which indicated that they intended “not only to kill but also to kidnap Israelis.”
He added that the terrorists were divided into small, well-coordinated cells.
“Even after an initial inquiry, we believe that we utilized the forces in the best way possible… ultimately eight terrorists were killed, and a harsher outcome was prevented,” the IDF commander said.
Hajbi estimated that Pascal Avrahami, the police officer killed in Thursday’s attack, was shot by a sniper.
“Sometimes there are unexpected threats,” he said. “That sniper is no longer among the living.”
Hajbi added that the IDF troops did not aim fire at Egyptian troops. “It is possible that they were caught in the line of fire, or were shot by terrorists. This issue is still under investigation,” he said.