Amid the recent wave of riots and angry protests across the Muslim world over a film portraying the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light, dozens of Salafist Islamist gunmen stormed a Multinational Force and Observers base in Al-Jora in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, leaving four officers wounded in an exchange of gunfire, as well as causing heavy damage to the base.
Some 1,500 MFO personnel, among them Americans and Canadians charged with implementing the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt serve at the base, about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Israeli border
The attackers tore down the international peacekeeping force's flags from the guard posts, raising black flags that symbolize the militant Islamic groups operating in Sinai, while yelling "Allahu Akbar" (“Allah is great”) and "Where are all the Muslims to avenge the humiliation of our sacred prophet?"
According to reports from Egypt on Saturday, at least four MFO officers were wounded in the attack. Two of the wounded were evacuated to a hospital in the nearby town of Sheikh Zuweid. Dozens of Egyptian army tanks and armored personnel carriers stationed in northern Sinai were called to the base to disperse Bedouin protesters who had gathered there following the attack. The Egyptian military forces were expected to remain near the base to ensure its security.
There has been an increase of reports recently over intentions by Egyptian Salafist groups to attack MFO soldiers stationed in Sinai, because the Al-Jora base is also used as a forward operating base by Western militaries deployed in the Middle East.
In a video released Saturday, Salfist activists are seen protesting for hours outside the base while throwing rocks at it and burning tires.
During the incident, the protesters managed to easily overtake the MFO security detail, jump over the barbed wire fence, enter the base and wreak havoc once inside, where they seized control of radio equipment and ammunition depots.
In Israel, meanwhile, hundreds of Muslims attending Friday prayers in east Jerusalem began to riot following services, hurling stones at police. The protests resumed Saturday in the vicinity of the Shuafat neighborhood between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Protesters tried marching toward the old American consulate building, but police units prevented them from advancing. A skirmish erupted between the two sides, during which protesters threw rocks at police. Several policemen were lightly wounded and four protesters were arrested.
Security forces were expected to remain on heightened alert on Sunday. Thousands of police, Border Police and Civil Guard volunteers were deployed in Jerusalem. The police spokesperson said that the security forces would aggressively respond to any disturbances.
A protest was also held in the old city of Acre after Friday prayer services, where hundreds of Muslim protesters chanted anti-U.S. slogans.
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asked Israel Police Commissioner Insp. Gen. Yohanan Danino and the State Prosecutor's Office to investigate the protesters in Acre, who voiced their support for slain Taliban leader Osama bin Laden.