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Friday, August 19, 2011

Caroline Glick on Thursday's terror attacks

Here's Caroline Glick writing about Thursday's terror attacks along the Egyptian border north of Eilat.
Since the Palestinian terror war began in 2000, then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak did almost nothing to prevent massive arms smuggling by Palestinian terror groups through Sinai. The Palestinians - from Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad - were assisted by Sinai Beduin as well as by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah. Mubarak also did next to nothing to prevent human and drug trafficking from Sinai into Israel and Gaza.

Mubarak did, however, protect the Egyptian regime's control over Sinai by among other things sealing the official land border from Egypt to Gaza at Rafah, defending Egyptian police stations and other security installations and vital infrastructure such as the gas pipeline from attack. Forces from his Interior Ministry kept a firm grip on the Beduin tribes.

As bad and increasingly complex as the security situation was becoming in Sinai under Mubarak, it has drastically deteriorated since he was overthrown in February. Actually, the Egyptian government arguably lost control over Sinai while Mubarak was being overthrown, and until last weekend made no attempt to reassert its sovereign control over the area.

As the world media ecstatically reported on the photogenic anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square, almost no attention was paid to the insurgency unfolding in Sinai. Shortly after the protests began in Cairo in mid-January, Hamas sent forces over the border into Egyptian Rafah and El-Arish to attack police stations with rifles and RPGs. Hamas fighters reportedly went as far south as Suez. There they joined other terror forces in bombing and raiding the police station in the town that abuts the Suez Canal. In consortium with local elements, Hamas carried out the first of five bombings so far of Egypt's gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan.

In a sharp departure from Mubarak's policies, the ruling military junta opened Egypt's border with Gaza and so gave local and regional jihadists the ability to freely traverse the international border.

Hamas and its fellow terrorists have used this freedom not only to steeply expand the missile and personnel transfers to the Gaza Strip. They have also escalated their challenge to Egyptian regime control over Sinai.

Over the past several months, in addition to recurrent bombings of the gas pipeline, these forces have attacked police stations and the port at Nueiba. In the wake of their July 30 attack on El-Arish in which two policemen and three civilians were killed, jihadist cells distributed leaflets calling for the imposition of Islamic law on Sinai.

According to media reports, jihadists also took over many of the main highways in Sinai at the beginning of August.

THESE LATEST assaults and the open challenge the leaflets and road takeovers pose to Egyptian state authority caused the military to deploy two battalions of armored forces to Sinai last weekend.

The stated aim of their operation is to defeat the al-Qaida-affiliated jihadist cells operating in the peninsula. Since Egypt's peace treaty with Israel prohibits the deployment of Egyptian military forces to Sinai, the Egyptian military regime requested and received Israeli permission for the deployment.

It is unclear how effective the latest Egyptian military deployment had been until Thursday's cross-border attacks on Israel had been. What is clear enough is that Israel cannot expect to receive serious cooperation from the Egyptian military in combating the enemy forces emanating from Sinai. Indeed, at this point it is impossible to rule out the possibility that Egyptian military personnel participated in the murderous attacks.

Passengers in one of the civilian cars attacked by gunmen in the first stage of the operation told the media that their attackers were wearing Egyptian army uniforms.

Almost immediately after the attacks took place, Egyptian military authorities denied the attackers entered Israel from Sinai. These denials signaled that the Egyptian military government will not assist Israel in its efforts to defend itself against the rapidly escalating threats it now faces from Sinai.

And this is not surprising. Since it overthrew Mubarak, the ruling military junta has assiduously cultivated close ties with the politically ascendant Muslim Brotherhood.

Three days before the attack, the IDF announced that its 2012-2017 budget includes no increase in either force size or equipment levels. As one IDF official told Reuters, "Our current capabilities are sufficient for our foreseeable requirements, though we will be investing anew in training and improving rapid-response mobility to allow for more flexibility during emergencies."

Recently, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz explained that the reason the IDF does not intend to change the training or size of the Southern Command, despite Egypt's increasing hostility towards Israel, is because Israel doesn't want to provoke Egypt by preparing for the worst. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quick to ignore Egypt and point his finger at the usual suspects in Gaza.

While it is reasonable to assume the Palestinians were involved in the attack, it is unreasonable to assume that they are the only culprits. And given the deteriorating security situation in Sinai and Egypt's escalating hostility, it is madness to limit Israel's attention in the wake of the attack to Gaza.
Read the whole thing. Will Israel respond to the changing situation before it's too late?

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At 9:48 AM, Blogger NormanF said...


In Israel, it usually takes a disaster for the government to remedy critical security deficiencies.

Israel always seems unprepared to deal with new situations. This is not the last time this has happened and more such events will happen in the future.

What could go wrong indeed


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