Egypt’s challenge

Now is the time for Morsy to choose the West over Iran and strengthen ties with Israel to combat our common enemy: terrorism.

By
August 6, 2012 23:25
3 minute read.
Truck carrying fruit leaves Kerem Shalom crossing

Truck carrying fruit leaves Kerem Shalom crossing point 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

We express our heartfelt condolences to Egypt over the murder of 16 of its soldiers at a base in Sinai near the Israeli border on Sunday. The soldiers were slain by a jihadi terrorist cell on its way to carrying out an attack in Israel.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy declared three days of mourning and ordered his army to assert control of Sinai.

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Morsy told Egyptian TV following an emergency meeting of his military council: “There is no room for appeasing this treason, this aggression and criminality. [Egyptian] troops will totally control Sinai.”

Sunday’s bloodshed began when a group of terrorists attacked an Egyptian military base in Sinai near the Israeli border, killing the soldiers and stealing two armored vehicles. Firing in all directions, the terrorists then burst through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Israel, with one of their booby-trapped vehicles exploding. But they were stopped by IAF helicopters and IDF troops, who had received an intelligence warning of the impending attack. Eight terrorists were killed.

The cell was apparently preparing what security sources called “a mega attack” on Israel. There were no Israeli casualties.

Earlier in the day, an IAF strike targeted a Global Jihad terror cell believed to be planning an attack from Sinai against Israel. The Shin Bet said the terrorist who was killed had been involved in a cross-border attack in June, in which a building contractor from Haifa was killed.

With a tragedy on the Egyptian side and another averted on the Israeli side, the escalation along the border is of extreme concern to Israel – but no less so to Egypt.

Sinai served as a money-making international tourist attraction in the past, and Egypt, for the most part, had managed to maintain quiet along the border with Israel since the 2004 bombings in Taba and Ras a-Satan. But all this has changed since the Arab Spring and the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February last year, and security on the border has become a serious problem.

Israel, for its part, is in the process of completing its border fence with Egypt and has boosted forces along the border. Based on intelligence information, it issued a stern travel advisory for Sinai last week, strongly urging all Israelis there to return home.

Egyptian troops sealed off Rafah and sent helicopter gunships to Sinai to hunt for terrorists after Sunday’s incident.

According to Egyptian media, Egypt imposed a curfew in northern Sinai, deployed a large number of troops along the border with Israel and placed them on high alert.

Security sources in Egypt said they believed the attack might have been planned by Islamic Jihad in Gaza together with Iranian-funded terrorists in Egypt. The terrorists were said to have been Sinai Beduin recruited by the Global Jihad group affiliated with al-Qaida. Hamas denied any involvement, calling it “an ugly crime.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on a visit to the site of the foiled attack at Kerem Shalom Monday, voiced, on behalf of the Israeli people, his sorrow over the loss of Egyptian lives.

“Israel and Egypt have a shared interest in maintaining a quiet border,” Netanyahu said. “But when talking about the security of Israeli citizens, Israel must and will rely only on itself.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that Israel had been in contact with the Egyptian authorities to offer its help, and called it “a wake-up call for the Egyptians to take matters into their own hands on their side of the border.”

“The way these assailants acted once again shows the need for the Egyptian authorities to act firmly to reestablish security and fight terror in Sinai,” Barak said.

It won’t be easy for Egyptian authorities to reassert control in Sinai and along the border with Israel. But with help from Israel and the US, it certainly can be done.

What is required from Egypt is a concerted campaign to expel Iranian-backed Global Jihad terrorists, remove arms caches in Sinai and Gaza, and halt the funding and training of Sinai Beduin by Iran, Global Jihad and al-Qaida.

The US provides a huge amount of military aid to Egypt ($1.3 billion annually). Some of this money should be used to clear the Sinai peninsula of terrorists and secure the border with Israel.

Above all, this is a test for Egypt’s new president, who also happens to be leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Now is the time for him to choose the West over Iran and strengthen ties with Israel to combat our common enemy: terrorism.

If Morsy can restore calm on the Egyptian-Israeli border, the impact on the whole region will be enormous.


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