Troops deploy in South amid fears of terrorist infiltration

Islamic Jihad cell currently in Sinai consists of over 10 terrorists who on their way to carry out an attack against Israel.

August 31, 2011 00:58
3 minute read.
Ehud Barak and Benny Gantz observe Egypt border

Egypt border Barak 311. (photo credit: Defense Ministry / Ariel Hermoni)

The IDF deployed large numbers of infantry soldiers along Israel’s border with Egypt, as fears mount regarding the possible infiltration of terrorists with plans to kidnap residents from borderline communities.

According to intelligence collected by the defense establishment, the Islamic Jihad cell currently in Sinai consists of over 10 terrorists who are currently on their way to carry out an attack against Israel along the Egyptian border.

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The decision to publicize the terror alert was made as part of an effort to dissuade the terrorists from continuing with their plans.

“Islamic Jihad is trying for a long time to perpetrate the attacks from the Sinai, and the holiday of Eid al-Fitr is a good time for attacks,” Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said on Tuesday during a visit to an Elbit Systems factory in Sderot in reference to the Muslim holiday.

“The defense establishment has concrete intelligence regarding plans by a terror cell from the Sinai consisting of more than 10 people.”

Vilnai said that the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) were working closely to thwart the attack and that Israel was also coordinating with Egypt.

On Monday, the IDF went on high alert along Israel’s southern border with Egypt and significantly bolstered its forces there amid concrete intelligence that Islamic Jihad terrorists were planning to infiltrate into Israel and carry out a similar attack to the one near Eilat 10 days ago.

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz made the decision to beef up forces along the border late Sunday night and instructed OC Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel to update the Egyptian military of the decision.

IDF sources said that intelligence indicated that the Islamic Jihad cell had crossed into the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip and was planning to carry out an attack along one of the roads that runs alongside the border in the coming days. As a result, both Roads 12 and 10 remained closed on Tuesday.

A senior defense official said on Tuesday that Israel was restraining itself and not taking action against the Islamic Jihad in order to not undermine the Egyptian regime.

Israel’s ties with the interim military-controlled regime in Egypt have been tenuous since the attacks near Eilat on August 18, and amid growing calls within Egypt to review the peace treaty between the countries. As a result, Israel decided not to launch a larger offensive against terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, OC Southern Command Maj.- Gen. Tal Russo spoke with heads of communities along the border to update them about the ongoing IDF operation to thwart the attack.

The community leaders complained to Russo about his decision to keep the roads closed and warned that the decision was severely impairing the resident’s lives.

“We can live with roads closed for a few days, but I do not remember that the army closed roads in the North or in other places. Instead, the IDF vowed to protect cars that traveled there,” head of the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council Shmuel Rifman said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday Egypt continued its military operation to hunt down jihadi groups in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

On Monday, the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported that some 1,500 soldiers and police officers – supported by tanks and armored vehicles – began combing the cities of El-Arish, Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah, near the Gaza border.

Fearing a spike in violence on the Eid al-Fitr holiday, authorities reportedly called on Beduin tribal elders to urge would-be terrorists not to engage in violent acts.

On Tuesday, the daily ran a feature on Egypt-Israel relations in the post-Hosni Mubarak era, with a focus on the four-day protest at the Israeli embassy last week.

The article noted the growing consensus among Egyptians over scrapping, or at least amending, the treaty, including the clause stipulating the demilitarization of Sinai.

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