At least 24 Egyptian policemen riding on two buses near the town of Rafah — a city in the Sinai Peninsula on the Egyptian-Gaza border — were killed in an attack by unknown terrorists on August 19. BBC News reported that there were conflicting reports about the details of the attack.
Security sources quoted by the Associated Press said that four armed men stopped the buses and forced the police to get out before shooting them.
BBC noted that it is too early to determine if the Sinai attack is in direct response to the ongoing conflict across Egypt since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 and the crackdown by the interim government on pro-Morsi protesters. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Egypt’s interior ministry blamed “armed terrorist groups” for the attack.
It is also not known if the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of 36 Islamists who died while being transported to a prison outside Cairo on Sunday night. Egyptian officials said the prisoners had suffocated in the back of a prison van from the effects of tear gas, which was fired when the prisoners rioted.
AFP, citing a border official, reported that Egypt closed its Rafah border crossing on Monday following the deadly attack.
Egypt has reversed its decision concerning the border more than once since last week, when it said it would close the crossing indefinitely. It was partially reopened on Saturday, according to the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza, but the latest attacked again prompted its closing.
The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is seven miles long and is protected by concrete and steel walls that are more than 25 feet high. The Rafah crossing is one of only three border crossings out of the Gaza Strip and the only one to the south.
An AP report carried by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper stated that the militants forced the two mini-buses to stop, ordered the policemen, who were in civilian clothes, out of the vehicles, and forced them to lie on the ground before they shot them to death. The report cited officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
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Photo of Mohamed Morsi supporter demonstrating in Cairo: AP Images