Is Sinai Israel’s Achilles’ heel?

J'lem reluctant to embark on counterterrorism in Egypt, a fact exploited by terrorists who targeted Eilat.

Netanyahu Sinai border 370 (photo credit: GPO)
Netanyahu Sinai border 370
(photo credit: GPO)
The al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists who targeted Eilat with rockets on Wednesday morning believe they have found Israel’s strategic Achilles’ heel.
Striking from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, they hope, rules out Israeli retaliation.
Jerusalem is highly reluctant to embark on any kind of counterterrorism operation on Egyptian territory, a fact readily exploited by Wednesday’s attackers.
It was the seventh rocket strike on Eilat since 2010, and time is running out for the IDF to find a way to close the security loophole threatening the Red Sea resort city.
The rockets were designed not only to sow death and destruction among civilians – which fortunately was averted on Wednesday – but also to bring about a collapse of Eilat’s vital tourism industry.
The Mujahadeen Shura Council, a Salafi jihadi group, claimed responsibility for the attack, releasing a triumphant video of its members launching the Grads. But it could end up paying a heavy price for its actions.
The group has assets in Gaza as well as Sinai. Its Gazan targets have already been struck in the past by the Israel Air Force.
In October 2012, the group was dealt a severe blow when its two most senior members were killed while riding a motorcycle by an Israeli air strike in response to a Grad rocket attack from Gaza.
But the global jihadis have bounced back. They refuse to recognize the Hamas-Israel cease-fire, opting to strain the truce again and again.
Most recently, at the beginning of April, the Shura council fired rockets at Sderot, prompting IAF counterstrikes for the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense in November.
With the group vulnerable to Israeli action in Gaza, the IAF might act even more forcefully against it in order to defend Eilat from future attacks.
Should that occur, however, Hamas will come under mounting pressure to terminate the truce.
Such pressure will be counterbalanced, however, by Israel’s credible deterrence; Hamas will be in no rush to invite renewed, bruising Israeli strikes.
Nevertheless, in today’s unstable region, small groups can trigger an unpredictable chain reaction that can lead to a much wider confrontation, and in multiple arenas.
An attack from Sinai can lead to an escalation in Gaza.
As it contemplates how to protect the people of Eilat, the IDF must prepare for all scenarios.