The discovery of a Hizbollah terror network in Sinai could lead to a major Egyptian backlash against the Shiite movement and Iran.
Egyptian security forces this week revealed the arrest of dozens of suspects, allegedly belonging to cells recruited by Hizbollah in Egypt. At least 15 terrorists are still at large in Sinai and hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen have been involved in the searches. Shots were twice fired at Egyptian security forces by Bedouin tribesmen believed to be working with the terrorists.
Among the cell members were Egyptians who had been sent to Lebanon for training, plus Bedouin and Sudanese trackers who helped them smuggle arms.
The Israeli Embassy in Cairo, holiday villages on the Sinai Coast frequented by Israelis and the resort towns of Taba and Eilat were believed to be potential targets.
“Hizbollah claim to be fighting against Israel,” said one senior Foreign Ministry official in Cairo, “but the aim of this network was, first of all, to weaken the Egyptian government.”
Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah responded with an angry television address, accusing Egypt of “cooperating with the Zionist entity”. Nasrallah admitted running a network in Sinai, but claimed that its objective was to transfer arms to the Gaza Strip.
“For the first time we are seeing a serious effort by the Egyptians to clamp down on what’s been happening in Sinai,” said a senior Israeli security source.
“This is happening because Hizbollah, and by extension Iran, crossed a red line by actually recruiting and operating a terror network in Egypt. This will force Egypt to act much more forcefully against Iranian interests.”
Meanwhile, terror attacks from Gaza continued, with an attempt to launch a boat-bomb attack on Monday.
The unmanned fishing boat was totally destroyed by an on-board explosion while sailing near Israeli Navy patrol-boats.
IDF sources explained that following recent failure to attack ground patrols around the Gaza Strip, the terror organisations are now trying other methods.