IDF patrol in South after 2011 cross border attack 370 (R).
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The IDF is bracing for an increase in rocket attacks from the Sinai Peninsula and into Israel over the coming days as the Egyptian presidential election comes to a close.
A senior defense official said Sunday that Israel had not yet confirmed the identity of the terror cell that launched two rockets into southern Israel on Friday night – one near Uvda and the other near Mitzpe Ramon.
The rockets were both identified as 122 mm. Katyushas which have a range of 50 km.
with a 30 kilogram explosive warhead. The IDF had originally looked into the possibility that the rockets were fired from Jordan but by Sunday morning had ruled out that possibility.
“This is a sensitive time for Egypt and we are prepared for the possibility that there will be a further escalation from the Sinai,” a senior defense official said on Sunday.
The Israel Police’s southern district is not expected to beef up forces around its area of jurisdiction following the double rocket attack on the area north of Eilat over the weekend.
A senior law enforcement source said that police have already increased their presence around Eilat before this past weekend, due to the arrival of the tourist season.
“No additional steps are necessary,” the source said. “We’re deployed in Eilat in greater numbers without connection to the rockets. “Summer is here and with it are tourists on vacation. We’re not going to waste forces by deploying them in Mitzpe Ramon.”
Police brass are however keeping a watchful eye on the border with the Sinai Peninsula, as well as the turbulent political situation in Egypt, while remaining in close touch with the IDF.
The fear within the defense establishment is that terrorist organizations which operate in the Sinai will increase their attacks against Israel to get it to respond and thereby become an issue within Egypt’s ongoing presidential elections between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
For this reason, the government has toned down its response to the latest rocket attacks.
“Israel must not interfere in the elections, not openly and not secretly,” top Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said Sunday morning.
On Sunday, Egyptian security forces said they seized a weapons cache in the Sinai including close to 200 anti-aircraft and Katyusha rockets.
Some of the weapons were believed to have originated in Libya. The cache is believed to have been on its way to the Gaza Strip.
Israel has long warned of growing Beduin involvement in terrorism in the Sinai, mostly as a proxy for Gaza-based terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Last August, for example, the terrorists who carried out the series of attacks which killed eight Israelis near the Netafim Crossing were later identified as Egyptian Beduin. The IDF suspects that they were hired by the Popular Resistance Committees – an offshoot of Hamas – to carry out the attacks on its behalf.
In the meantime, the IDF is considering hooking up the city of Eilat to early-warning systems that would alert residents of incoming rocket attacks. Last month, The Jerusalem Post revealed that the IDF was preparing a launch site for the Iron Dome rocket-defense system near Eilat ahead of the possibility that the system will be deployed there in the future.