JERUSALEM, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- An investigation is under way into reports that al-Qaida groups had a key role in the commando-style attack last week in Israel, intelligence officials said.
A U.S. assessment of the incident Thursday determined that either the Palestinian group Popular Resistance Committees or the Gaza-based Army of Islam carried out the assault and bombing raid near the resort town of Eilat in which eight civilians and five attackers died, The Washington Times reported Tuesday.
However, an Israeli intelligence expert specializing on al-Qaida said an initial probe identified a new group, al-Qaida in the Sinai Peninsula, as a key perpetrator of the attack, the Times said.
"There has been a history of close operational coordination between Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and [the Army of Islam], which is the most important of the al-Qaida affiliates in the Gaza Strip," said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations who now heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
U.S. officials told the Times there is no conclusive confirmation about the attackers' identity.
One intelligence official said the attack on Eilat highlighted how Egypt's military government is losing control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Times said. During the midday raid, gunmen ambushed a civilian Israeli bus and attackers also detonated a roadside bomb targeting military vehicles responding to the carnage.