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
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy declared three days of mourning
and ordered his army to assert control of Sinai.
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.
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
Egyptian troops sealed off Rafah and sent helicopter gunships to
Sinai to hunt for terrorists after Sunday’s incident.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.