CAIRO — Gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on four Israeli Embassy staff members leaving an international trade fair Wednesday, killing one of them and injuring the other three, officials said.
A letter sent to a Western news agency claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of "Egypt's Revolution," a group involved in at least two previous attacks against Israelis in Cairo.
An Israeli Embassy spokesman identified the slain Israeli as a woman who worked as a secretary at the embassy. The other victims were two men, both administrative attaches, and another woman secretary. One of the attaches was hospitalized in critical condition while the other two Israelis were said to be in serious condition but out of danger. Israel radio identified the dead woman as Etti Talor, the wife of an Israeli Embassy staffer. The names of the three others were not immediately released.
Preliminary details were sketchy, but Egyptian television said the attack took place Wednesday evening as the four Israelis were leaving the Israeli pavilion at the Cairo International Trade Fair, which opened March 8.
Car Raked by Gunfire
The Israelis had just left the fairgrounds in a northeastern suburb of the city when their car was raked by fire from gunmen in another vehicle, which sped off immediately after the attack, the report said.
Other official sources, who asked not to be identified, said two cars were apparently used in the ambush. One vehicle blocked the Israelis' car while the gunmen opened fire from the second vehicle, they said.
The attack took place shortly after Israeli Minister of Tourism Avraham Sharir, who arrived in Cairo earlier in the day, visited the Israeli pavilion. There was speculation that he may have been the gunmen's intended target.
Letter to News Agency
Shortly after the attack, the British news agency Reuters received a typewritten letter saying the ambush was aimed against "American and Israeli agents." It was signed by Egypt's Revolution, the same group that claimed responsibility for the murder last August of Israeli administrative attache Albert Atrakchi and the shooting a year earlier of another diplomat, who was only slightly wounded.
Egyptian police failed to capture the attackers involved in either of the earlier incidents, and diplomatic sources close to both investigations said they still know virtually nothing about the group, except that its declared aim is to sabotage the peace treaty that Egypt and Israel signed in 1979.
"It could be an Egyptian group, or the name could be a cover for an outside group seeking to embarrass Egypt and damage Egyptian-Israeli relations. We still don't know," one source said.
Talks on Taba Resume
Observers noted, however, that the attack coincided both with Sharir's visit and with another round of talks in Cairo between Egyptian and Israeli negotiators over a border dispute involving the Sinai Peninsula town of Taba.
The dispute over Taba, a 250-acre beachfront resort that Israel withheld when it returned the rest of the Sinai to Egypt in 1982, has been a principal obstacle to the improvement of relations between the two countries.
However, a breakthrough was achieved earlier this year when Israel accepted Egypt's demand that the rival claims to Taba be submitted to international arbitration, which Egypt is considered likely to win. Although the talks have since been slowed by disagreements over details, diplomatic sources have said that an agreement is near.
Once reached, an agreement will likely be followed by a summit meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, the sources said.
Attack Timed to Talks
The timing of the latest attack may have been designed to disrupt this scenario, which is expected to lead to increased ties in trade, tourism and cultural exchanges, the sources added.
In the past, Egyptian officials have asserted that Egypt's Revolution is not a home-grown group but a cover for other countries opposed to better Egyptian-Israeli ties.
If this is true, the most obvious suspects would be Libya and Syria. Of the two, diplomats tend to rule out Libya if only because the nature of its attacks on Libyan dissidents in Egypt has been relatively amateurish and easily foiled by Egyptian security in the past.
By contrast, the attacks against the Israelis seem to have left Egyptian investigators baffled. "The Egyptians have just not been able to find out anything about this group," one diplomatic source said.
4th Attack in Egypt
The latest attack was the fourth against Israelis in Egypt, the only Arab country to have made peace with the Jewish state.
Besides the two earlier attacks attributed to Egypt's Revolution, an Egyptian border policeman opened fire on seven Israeli tourists in the Sinai last January, killing all of them. Convicted of murder, the policeman, Suleiman Khater, was later found dead in his cell, an apparent suicide.
His trial and death touched off a series of anti-government demonstrations by students demanding the abrogation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.