Egypt Pipeline Explosion 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt announced Saturday that it was launching an operation in the Sinai
Peninsula aimed at restoring the state’s security control in the region, which
has been overrun by terrorist and extremist elements since Hosni Mubarak’s
downfall last year.
An Israeli official in Jerusalem said the Sinai
operation had been coordinated with Israel. It came after a Katyusha rocket was
fired from Sinai into Israel before dawn Thursday, exploding in Eilat.
Saturday evening, IAF aircraft struck a terror cell attempting to fire rockets
into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, according to the IDF Spokesman’s
Office. Two Palestinians were injured in the strike, which targeted a motorcycle
near Rafah, according to Palestinian sources.
Terrorists in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets towards the Sdot Hanegev
Regional Council, near Netivot, in response to the IAF attack early
Sunday morning. The rockets exploded in open fields, causing no injuries.
The IAF strike marked the
first such action in Gaza since last month, when Palestinians launched more than
200 rockets into southern Israel, prompting a number of Israeli retaliatory
After the rocket landed in Eilat, IDF Chief of Staff
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Israel viewed the attack with gravity and that
it had been the work of terrorist organizations operating in the
“Anyone who tests us from near or far will find himself facing
a strong and smart military prepared to defend Israel and defeat our enemies,”
The Egyptian Interior Ministry said 150 special forces police
officers would be deployed in northern Sinai to help increase Egypt’s
sovereignty in the region, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an
The deployment would be aimed specifically at protecting the
pipeline in Sinai that delivers natural gas to both Israel and Jordan. Saboteurs
have attacked the pipeline 13 times since the uprising against Mubarak began
The police reinforcements were also meant to prevent ambushes
on army forces traveling between the cities of El- Arish and Rafah, according to
the Egyptian statement.
Police bomb squad personnel in Eilat found the
shell of a second Grad rocket just west of the city on Saturday. The rocket had
been fired together with a number of others at Eilat on Thursday, when several
explosions were heard in the Red Sea resort.
“It had a 122-millimeter
diameter. Police found it west of Eilat just outside of the city,” police
spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Last week, shortly after the rocket
attack, a police bomb squad dispatched to track down rocket blast sites found
the remnants of one Grad rocket near residential buildings. It removed the
projectile from the scene.
Following the attack, Military Intelligence
chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi revealed that the IDF had thwarted 10
different terrorist plots to attack Israel from Sinai in the past two
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for new Military Intelligence
officers, Kochavi said that the rocket had been a warning about the changes
sweeping the Middle East.
“It could be that the change will bring new
opportunities, but in the short term the risks are increasing,” Kochavi
The rocket strike on Eilat did not come as a surprise for the IDF,
which has been closely tracking Palestinian terrorist activities in Sinai since
an attack along the Egyptian border in August left eight Israelis dead. IDF
assessments are that the perpetrators of Thursday’s attack were either a
Palestinian rocket cell from Gaza – affiliated with either Hamas or Islamic
Jihad – or Beduin working for the Gaza-based organizations.
Meir Yitzhak-Halevy said his city would continue functioning as usual despite
“We have no intention of changing our daily routine,” he told
Army Radio. “I call on all Israeli citizens to come enjoy the warm weather in
our city this Passover.”
Israel has called on Cairo to increase its
efforts to restore order in Sinai and to prevent attacks, but the Egyptian
military has held back from dismantling the Hamas infrastructure in the
In December, The Jerusalem Post
reported that Hamas had
established rocket production lines in Sinai and was also moving some of its
weapons caches there to protect them from Israeli air strikes.
a dozen Egyptian army battalions allowed into Sinai with Israel’s permission
(required because of limits placed on Egyptian forces there under the peace
treaty) are still operating, although with limited success in stopping terrorist
activity and arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip.
Ma’an quoted Egyptian
security sources as saying Saturday that Israel had agreed to temporarily allow
seven more Egyptian army battalions into Sinai to help with the crackdown on
terrorist elements.Yaakov Katz, Tovah Lazaroff and JPost.com staff contributed to this