The Egyptian government had demanded an Israeli apology for and joint investigation into the border skirmish, in which an Egyptian military officer and two policemen were killed. It had also criticized statements by Israeli officials about Egypt after the attack in southern Israel, which killed eight people. Barak said at the time that Egypt’s hold on the Sinai Peninsula, from where the gunmen are believed to have infiltrated Israel, had weakened.
“Israel regrets the death of the Egyptian policemen during the attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border,” Barak said in a statement released by his office. The statement added that Barak had ordered a military investigation of the incident in which the Egyptian personnel were killed, followed by a joint probe with the Egyptian army to clarify what had happened and draw the “appropriate conclusions.”
The statement did not acknowledge Israeli responsibility for the deaths.
On Friday, militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into Israel and Israeli aircraft carried out deadly strikes across the coastal territory in a surge of cross-border violence after the Thursday attacks.
Responsibility for the rocket firings was asserted by the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a militant group in Gaza whose leaders were killed Thursday evening in a retaliatory airstrike by Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the group of planning the attacks near Eilat, which Israeli officials said were carried out by gunmen from Gaza who had infiltrated Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, an assertion denied by Egyptian officials.
The killings of the PRC leaders were “just the first response,” Netanyahu said Friday while visiting soldiers wounded in Thursday’s attacks. “We have a policy of exacting a very high price from those who harm us. and this policy is being applied in practice on the ground.”
The Israeli airstrikes Friday killed eight Palestinians and wounded 40, according to Gaza’s emergency services. Medical officials said the dead included two boys, ages 5 and 13, and three were identified as militants.
In one strike in Gaza City, a leader of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad group was killed along with his son and brother as they rode a motor scooter, Palestinians reported from the scene.
The Israeli army said it had struck rocket-launching squads in several locations.
The airborne attacks also targeted security posts of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, as well as smuggling tunnels under the border with Egypt and what the army said were weapons manufacturing sites.