An Egyptian soldier on the Israeli border in Sinai 311 (R).
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The challenge Israel is facing in the Sinai is very similar to the daily terror threats it faces in the Gaza Strip.
On Friday night, two rockets were fired into Israel from the Sinai and on Sunday a number of mortars were fired into Israel from Gaza.
On Monday morning, a roadside bomb
targeted a civilian vehicle along the border. Terrorists then opened fire with assault rifles and RPGs. A few hours later, the Israel Air Force bombed a motorbike in northern Gaza carrying two members of a sniper cell which had been shooting at Israeli farmers and soldiers along the border.
But here is the main difference – while Israel can retaliate and respond militarily to attacks from Gaza, its hands are – for the time being – tied in face of the same threats it faces from Egypt.
Since the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, the number of intelligence alerts that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has recorded regarding a possible attack from the Sinai has more than tripled and there is a standing general warning in place at the IDF’s Edom Division, responsible for the border.
The problem is that unlike the Gaza Strip, Israel will not and likely cannot act freely - military speaking - when it comes to Egypt, even if it knows about a ticking terrorist bomb.
Ties with the regime are already tense ever since Mubarak was overthrown last February and an Israeli attack on Egyptian soil – no matter what the target and the legitimacy – would not be taken lightly.
This would not change no matter who is elected as Egypt’s new president but particularly under the Muslim Brotherhood Israel would have to be extra careful.
Israel still does not know who was behind the attacks but the first likely culprit is a terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip – either Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees, the group which orchestrated the attack last August along the border.
It is possible that the perpetrators this time were also Beduin, a possibility which needs to serve as a point of concern for Israel since it means that the attackers are not just Gazans operating from the Sinai but also local residents who are turning to terror.
In response to the attack, the Defense Ministry has already announced that it will speed up construction of the security barrier it has been building there for the past year. The the IDF will also likely maintain a larger presence along the border.
Ultimately though, senior defense officials admit that Israel cannot deal with the terror threat on its own and that it will need the Egyptian government to work to regain control over the Sinai and weed out the terrorists there.