Israeli air-strikes across the Gaza Strip on Aug. 18 killed at least seven—including Popular Resistance Committees official Khaled Shaath, but also his two-year-old son and a 13-year-old Palestinian boy. The air raids came after coordinated militant attacks left seven Israelis dead—six civilians and one soldier—near the Red Sea tourist town of Eilat.
Palestinian gunmen attacked two buses and two cars traveling near the southern resort city just after noon. When Israeli troops arrived, roadside bombs planted by the militants were detonated. Seven militants were killed in subsequent firefights with the soldiers. Israeli officials said they believe that militants crossed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt in order to infiltrate Israel's border near Eilat. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the attacks "demonstrate the weakening of Egypt's control over the Sinai Peninsula and the expansion of terrorist activity there." (JTA, Maan News Agency, Aug. 18)
US and Egyptian officials meanwhile said the decision to postpone scheduled joint military exercises is due to the political transition underway in Egypt and should not be considered a sign of any rift. The Pentagon's Central Command traditionally leads the biennial Bright Star Exercises, the oldest in the Middle East region, which involve forces from the US, Egypt and European and Arab allies. (VOA, UPI, Aug. 18)