The political unrest in Egypt, security chaos in the Sinai peninsular and the spike in terror attacks on Israel’s southern border are all directly connected, say senior security officials.
Israelis are concerned that the apparent victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in last weekend’s Egyptian presidential elections will embolden the Palestinian organisations to carry out further attacks.
The most serious attack took place on Monday morning, when a terror team infiltrated across the border in northern Sinai, near the agricultural community of Beer Milka, and opened fire on a group of workers building the new border fence with Egypt. One of the workers, Said Pashapasha, an Arab-Israeli from Haifa, was killed. An IDF unit tracked down the terrorists and killed two of them. A third escaped back to Egypt.
The incursion came in the midst of a new spate of rocket attacks on Israeli targets. On Saturday night, two Grad missiles were launched from Sinai against targets in the central Negev, probably by Islamist radicals working with elements within the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, this week, Hamas launched dozens of rockets from Gaza. There were no casualties in any of the attacks.
On Sunday and Monday, the IAF retaliated in five attacks in which four Palestinians were killed. The IDF said that the targets were military installations and a rocket-launching team.
This was Hamas’s first missile attack in over a year — most of the recent assaults have come from Islamic Jihad and other smaller organisations.
A senior security official said: “The political and security situation in Egypt indicates that we can expect more attacks like these in the near future”.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh welcomed the unofficial results of the Egyptian election. He repeated the claim that Mr Morsi had won and called on him to “hold back Israel’s aggression”.
On visiting the site of the attack on the new border fence on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said: “The work is going at a good pace, but there is an operational problem that is connected to the more significant problem within Sinai. The terror bases are being built and attacks are sent from there. We expect the Egyptians to solidify their sovereignty in Sinai.”
Over the past year-and-a-half, Israel has allowed Egypt to send seven additional battalions into Sinai, beyond the level of forces allowed by the Camp David peace accords. These forces, however, have had to move into northern Sinai to fight the al Qaeda-aligned groups operating there. Israeli security officials have complained that little has been done along the southern parts of the border.