Analysis: Has time come for Egypt to retake Sinai?

In aftermath of attack in which terrorists killed 15 Egyptians before attacking Israel, Morsy will likely ask to station more soldiers in Sinai.

By
August 6, 2012 00:00
2 minute read.
Love affair with Sinai unabated

Sinai. (photo credit: Linda Epstein)

 
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The attack along the southern border on Sunday night, which killed around a dozen Egyptian soldiers, could be a turning point for Cairo in its fight over the future of Sinai.

Israel has been warning for years now that terrorists from global jihad groups based throughout the Middle East, alongside Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, are using Sinai as a launch pad for attacks into Israel.

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This, IDF officers claim, has increased considerably since the downfall of Hosni Mubarak last year.

Until now, likely because the attacks were aimed only against Israel, the Egyptians have done hardly anything about this. Now, that might begin to change.

This, at least, will be Israel’s hope in the aftermath of the attack on Sunday night, although it will take weeks, if not months, to determine if there is such a change.

The attack was sophisticated, but it was also extremely ambitious and seemed to have been taken straight out of a Hollywood movie – breaking into an Egyptian military base, killing around a dozen soldiers, stealing two armored vehicles and then ramming them into Israel.

It shows that the terrorists are not afraid of Egypt and are willing to kill Egyptians on their way to kill Israelis.

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For now, the IDF’s investigation will focus on determining the identity of the attackers. It seems that at least some of them are Egyptian Beduin from Sinai, while others might be Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. The IDF believes that the perpetrators are part of a larger global jihad infrastructure that is forming inside Sinai and is a threat not just to Israel but also to Egypt.

The attack was not connected to the one that Israel thwarted earlier in the day with an air strike on a global jihad cell in southern Gaza that killed one terrorist and seriously wounded another. That planned attack, which appears to have been thwarted – for the time being – was supposed to be different.

The IDF did, however, have vague intelligence about the second attack and, as a result, it was not a coincidence that OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo was in an army base adjacent to the Kerem Shalom crossing when the attack took place.

What this means is that Israel is facing a reality along its border with Egypt that is becoming more and more similar to the situation along its border with Gaza – a number of groups all trying simultaneously and independently to attack Israel.

So, what will happen? Egypt will probably ask Israel to allow it to deploy additional army battalions in Sinai so they can crack down on the growing terrorist threat there.

Israel will be in a difficult position. If it says yes, it is actively allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to station more soldiers in what is supposed to be a demilitarized zone. If it says no, it will be giving new President Mohamed Morsy a way out from having to do anything.

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