JERUSALEM, Israel - Investigations into the Aug. 18 terror attacks near Israel's border with the Sinai Peninsula are pointing increasingly toward al Qaeda-linked groups.
An estimated 15-20 terrorists armed with automatic weapons and grenades -- some wearing explosives belts -- ambushed an Israeli bus and civilian cars traveling near the southern resort town of Eilat.
They detonated a roadside bomb, blowing up IDF military vehicles before open firing on troops responding to the attack. Eight Israelis died in the attacks.
The al Qaeda-linked Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the melee. Israeli intelligence officials believe another Islamic terror group, Jaish al Islam, was also involved.
Following the attack, former Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dore Gold said, "There has been a history of close operational coordination between Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and Jaish al Islam, which is the most important of the al Qaeda affiliates in the Gaza Strip."
"These organizations all work together, and Sinai is a place where they all meet," Gold said.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that "international terror organizations are stirring in Sinai and their presence is increasing due to Sinai's connection to Gaza."
After the attack on the el-Arish police station in late July, one U.S. official told The Washington Times "there was no longer any doubt that al Qaeda had some kind of potent presence in the peninsula."
The terrorists passed out a "statement from al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula" afterward, calling for the establishment of an Islamic emirate in the Sinai, the establishment of sharia (Islamic) law, severing the peace treaty with Israel, and demanding Egyptian military support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
It also called for a halt to discrimination against Bedouins in the Sinai, who have been increasingly involved with Hamas and al Qaeda-linked groups. Since February, the Egyptian gas pipeline, which supplies Jordan and Israel, has been repeatedly sabotaged.
With the opening of the Rafah border crossing, terrorists can travel more freely between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai.