JERUSALEM -- A uniformed gunman from Egypt shot and killed three Israeli soldiers and a bus driver in far southern Israel yesterday in the most violent of several weekends of raids on the country's frontiers.
The soldiers were hit while riding in jeeps. Aboard the bus, the driver was slain and 23 civilian defense workers were wounded. Eighteen of the wounded were released from hospitals shortly after the incident. The attack took place at dawn near Eilat, an Israeli resort on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Foreign Minister Moshe Arens indirectly blamed Egypt for lax control of the frontier. "Israel expects that Egypt will take all the necessary steps to retain the peace along its border with Israel and to prevent murderers coming from its territory," he said.
Islamic Jihad, a Moslem extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued in Jordan.
In February, the same group, an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organization, had claimed responsibility for killing nine Israeli tourists in an attack on a tourist bus inside Egypt.
"This morning one of our units operating in Egypt dealt a blow to a Zionist bus at the crossing-point between Palestine and Egypt," yesterday's Islamic Jihad statement said.
In Lebanon later in the day, a teen-age girl carrying a bag of explosives blew herself up when she tried to attack a group of Israeli soldiers inside the Israeli-controlled buffer zone that hugs Israel's northern frontier. The blast killed the woman and inflicted slight injuries on two Israeli soldiers and a Lebanese bystander, Israeli authorities said.
A Lebanese-based group called the Syrian Nationalist Social Party took responsibility for the suicide attack.
Yesterday's attacks came on the heels of an attempted beach landing in Israel by guerrillas from Lebanon. Four guerrillas died Saturday and a third swam to shore near Sidon in Lebanon after their boat was shot out of the water by an Israeli naval patrol.
Israeli military officials were reluctant to link the raids. "There is no evidence of coordination at this point," army spokesman Moshe Fogel said.
For the past several weeks, it was Israel's frontier with Jordan that had produced bloodshed. Several attempts at infiltration were thwarted by Israeli troops, the most recent on Nov. 8 when a group of Jordanian militiamen was intercepted by Israeli soldiers. One Israeli and one Jordanian were killed during the shootout.
The killings near Eilat highlighted the relatively relaxed surveillance along the border with Egypt, the only Arab country to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.
Along parts of the border, the countries are separated only by an easily traversed wire fence, in contrast to the heavily patrolled, mined border with Jordan and the closely watched frontier with Lebanon, which is protected by a militarized buffer zone that extends up to 10 miles into the neighboring country and which is patrolled by the Israeli-backed, Christian-led South Lebanon Army.
According to reports from Egypt, the gunman lay down in a ditch beside a road 6 miles northwest of Eilat. When the jeeps and later the bus, which were heading to a military base, passed, he rose and fired a Soviet-made AK-47 rifle. An alerted Israeli army patrol appeared and began shooting, as did one or more of the travelers on the bus. The gun man fled on foot toward Egypt, 300 yards away. He was wounded but escaped, reports said.
Israel radio said the gunman was a border guard. Cairo's Middle East News Agency reported that an army conscript was arrested in Egypt on suspicion of "opening fire on a number of Israeli
vehicles carrying Israeli soldiers and workers."
"It is a very regrettable incident, and we are certainly against such kinds of acts and we shall investigate this affair in detail," said Egypt's Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Maguid.