JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli and Egyptian leaders are pouring over details of Sunday's cross-border attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and injured seven others.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the Israel Defense Forces for its defense against a complex operation that brought jihadists girded with explosive belts into Israel.
The 35-member terror cell, made up of local Bedouins believed to be affiliated with global jihad groups, entered the dining room at an Egyptian army base about a mile from the border where they opened fire on soldiers breaking the Ramadan fast. They then stole an armored vehicle and together with an explosives-laden pickup truck drove toward the Israeli border to carry out a mega terror attack.
The pickup got bogged down in sand at the border gates, but the armored vehicle made it through and headed toward Eilat, driving along the security fence, Jerusalem Post military correspondent Yaakov Katz reported in a detailed account of the incident.
According to the report, an IDF unit from the Bedouin Reconnaissance Tracing Battalion opened fired on the armored vehicle, somehow convincing the terrorists to reverse direction and head back toward the Kerem Shalom border crossing where another group of soldiers from the same unit opened fire on them.
As that was happening, the booby trapped truck blew up and the IDF dispatched an aircraft and tank to take out the armored vehicle.
The IDF later said most of the terrorists were wearing explosives belts -- an indication of their intentions to kill as many Israelis, civilian or military, as possible.
Meanwhile, Islamic groups ironically and predictably blamed Israel for the attack.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said the attack "could be attributed to the Mossad [Israel's secret service], which has been seeking to abort the Egyptian revolution, especially as it had several days ago instructed citizens who were in Sinai to leave immediately," the Egyptian Independent reported.
The Israeli government's Counterterrorism Bureau often issues travel advisories to Israelis vacationing at Egyptian resorts in the Sinai. The advisories are based on concrete terror warnings, as this latest one was.
Top Islamic Jihad official Sheikh Osama Qassem said, "They [Israelis] aim to embarrass the president and drive a wedge between the Islamists and the army."
"I do not rule out the involvement of Israel in this ugly incident," he said.
Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh speaking on the group's al-Aksa satellite television station, also blamed the Jewish state.
"Israel is responsible one way or another for this attack to embarrass Egypt's leadership and create new problems at the border in order to ruin efforts to end the [Israeli] siege of the Gaza Strip," Haniyeh claimed.
And a caption on the website of Hamas' "armed wing," the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, read, "Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi speaks with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi at the presidential palace in Cairo during an emergency meeting after Israel killed at least 15 Egyptian soldiers near the Rafah border crossing with Gaza," the Independent Media Review and Analysis reported.
On Monday evening, several dozen Egyptians demonstrated in Cairo calling on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador.
"It's definitely Israel who is behind it," said protester Ahmed El-Toni, YNet reported. "We demand the termination of any political relations with Israel."
Israel is hoping the incident will act as a "wake-up" call for the Egyptian government -- that it needs to fight the growing threat of global jihad groups in the Sinai.