The escalation in Israel's south ended almost as abruptly as it began, with no clear winners. Israel lost seven civilians and two soldiers in the terror attack on the border near Eilat. In retaliation, it killed 12 members of terrorist groups in Gaza, including those who allegedly planned the attack.
Three Palestinian civilians were also killed. The leadership of the shadowy Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) was wiped out, but the movement succeeded not only in carrying out the daring attack, but in continuing to fire missiles into Israel.
Meanwhile, Hamas seemed to be losing control over the smaller terror groups operating from within the Gaza Strip, but ultimately succeeded in consolidating its hold by enforcing a ceasefire from Sunday night onwards.
The PRC fighters spent a month in Sinai, after leaving Gaza through the tunnel under Rafah. Their weapons were probably picked up in Sinai, which, since the Mubarak regime fell in February, has been awash with weapons, smuggled in through Sudan by Iran, or recently looted from abandoned Libyan army depots.
Last week, the Egyptian army raided a workshop manufacturing explosives in El Arish in northern Sinai. At times over the last few years, the PRC has been a proxy of Hamas, a contractor for carrying out attacks on Israel, and occasionally a challenger to its hegemony in Gaza. This time they chose to take on both Israel and Egypt, confirming the fears of senior officers in the IDF that after Mubarak, Egypt would become a base for attacks against Israel.
For the last 30 years, Israel has regarded its southern frontier as a "border of peace." Last year, prompted by the thousands of African job-seekers walking across, Israel finally decided to build a new border fence, with electronic surveillance. It is due to be completed by the end of 2012, but until then, unless Egypt seriously acts to restore order to Sinai, the incursions are expected to continue.