Eilat rocket hit is latest in a string of attacks from Sinai

Israeli police inspect damage from the rocket that struck Eilat last week

Israeli police inspect damage from the rocket that struck Eilat last week

Explosions rocked the city of Eilat on Wednesday night of last week, after two Grad rockets, fired from the Sinai Peninsula, landed in the southern Israel city.

Though traces of a rocket were found around 150 metres from a residential building, no injuries were reported in the attack. Following the incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel will "strike at those who attack us," a pledge that was echoed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

The strike was the latest in a series of violent incidents originating in the Sinai since the Egyptian uprising, which began last January, brought the country's system of law and order to a standstill, nowhere more so than the peninsula, where the rule of the state was never ironclad to begin with.

Furthermore, during the Libyan uprising, large amounts of weaponry made their way from Gaddafi's raided warehouses to the Sinai Peninsula, where the Bedouin clans that exercise de facto rule over the territory were already well-armed.

In a further indication of the chaos on Israel's southern border, on Sunday, an explosion struck a section of the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline outside the northern Sinai city of El-Arish, the 14th time the pipeline has been attacked since the Egyptian uprising began.

The pipeline, which has remained shut since an explosion on February 5, has carried natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan as part of a 20-year deal between the two countries.

A day before the attack on the pipeline, Egypt announced that it will deploy 150 Special Forces officers and police to patrol the northern Sinai and bring more law and order to the region in co-ordination with Israel.

In August 2011, gunmen infiltrated Israel from Sinai and launched a series of attacks that left eight Israelis dead and dozens wounded. While pursuing the terrorists, errant IDF fire killed three Egyptian soldiers, further straining ties between Israel and Egypt. The following Friday, a crowd of thousands stormed the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

Israel's former ambassador to Egypt, Zvi Mazel, told the JC that the situation in Sinai is a direct result of neglect by Egyptian authorities of the Bedouin who make up some 90 per cent of Sinai's 300,000 residents.

"The situation is bad in the Sinai because the Egyptian authorities have always treated the Bedouin dismissively and never got involved in their economic lives or social issues," Mazel said, adding that the only way to solve the situation in Sinai is through increased dialogue between the Egyptian authorities and the Bedouin of Sinai.

In the meantime, Mazel argued that it will be impossible for Israel to operate militarily inside Sinai and will have to counter terror attacks through dialogue with Egyptian authorities, who will be entrusted to act to protect Israel's southern border.

Ben Hartman

Last updated: 5:35pm, April 11 2012