Thursday, August 9, 2012 | return to: news & features, international


Sinai border attack seen as test of Egypt-Israel relationship

by marcy oster, jta

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jerusalem    |   The attack this week along the Israel-Egypt border poses dilemmas both for Israel and for the new Egyptian president.

Should Israel accede to pressure to modify its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and allow more Egyptian troops into the Sinai to quell the unrest there?

Will Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s crackdown on militancy in the Sinai be seen domestically as helping Israel, a country much of his constituency still views as an implacable foe?

The wreckage of an Egyptian military vehicle after militants burst through a security fence into Israel, Aug. 6, 2012.   photo/jta-flash90-tsafrir abayov
The wreckage of an Egyptian military vehicle after militants burst through a security fence into Israel, Aug. 6, 2012. photo/jta-flash90-tsafrir abayov
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, which is affiliated with the Brotherhood, blamed Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency for the Aug. 5 attack. Hamas claimed it was an attempt to disrupt Morsi’s new Islamist government, and the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly called for a review of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

But it’s not clear that Morsi endorsed that statement; rather, he ordered the Egyptian army to take “control” of the Sinai.

Israeli defense and government officials are saying that the  attack — in which militants in the Sinai Peninsula killed at least 15 Egyptian soldiers before breaching the Israeli border and being stopped by deadly Israeli fire — is an important moment in the Israel-Egypt relationship.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, called it a “wake-up call” for Egypt.

As part of the 1979 peace treaty, Egypt agreed to leave the Sinai mostly demilitarized, with specific restrictions on the number of troops and type of weaponry allowed there. Israel agreed to ease those restrictions in January 2011 after protests against then-President Hosni Mubarak intensified and attacks began on the gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel.

Since Mubarak’s fall, the Sinai has become increasingly lawless, with multiple bombings of the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline before Egypt halted gas delivery earlier this year; increased smuggling between Egypt and Hamas-controlled Gaza; and terrorist attacks launched against Israel from the Sinai. African migrants from Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere also have used the Sinai as a base for sneaking into Israel.

This week’s assault was the deadliest incident along the border since Mubarak’s fall, although an attack last summer left eight Israelis dead in Eilat. Aside from the Egyptian soldiers killed in the Aug. 5  attack at the Rafah security checkpoint, several Egyptian soldiers may have been kidnapped by the terrorists, according to reports. Barak identified the attackers as members of the Global Jihadi terrorist group.

After killing the Egyptians, attackers used two vehicles to cross the border into Israel at the Kerem Shalom checkpoint. Israeli helicopters responded, killing the terrorists. At least six were wearing suicide vests, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Israeli intelligence had information on the planned attack, enabling the military to have helicopters in the area to strike the terrorists, an IDF spokesman said. Israel shared its intelligence with Egypt in advance of the attack, according to reports.

“I think that it is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in maintaining a quiet border,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Aug. 6 while touring the site of the previous day’s attack. “However, as has been made clear on numerous occasions, when it comes to the security of the citizens of Israel, the state of Israel must and can rely only on itself.”

The border crossing was reopened Aug. 6.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a condolence message to Egypt on the deaths of its troops. The message pointed out that the attack “aimed at shattering the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.”

The message said, “Peace between the two countries has been, and still is, an interest common to both peoples; Israel will continue to act in a spirit of cooperation with Egypt in order to preserve this vital interest and ensure security and stability in the region.”

The attack came two days after Israeli authorities warned Israelis to return immediately from the Sinai, citing an imminent terrorist threat.

The U.S. Embassy in Israel also called on American citizens to “take precautions” in traveling to the Sinai. The embassy’s security message noted that there have been multiple kidnappings in the Sinai of U.S. citizens in the past four years, and that kidnappings of foreign tourists in the Sinai have increased since January.

In mid-June, terrorists infiltrated Israel from Egypt and killed an Israeli contractor in a border attack.

Israel began construction last year to complete its border fence with Egypt, both to halt the infiltration of illegal migrants and to prevent attacks. The fence will include barbed wire, cameras and motion detectors, and is set to be completed by the end of the year.

“There is no doubt that if they had entered a town here or an army base by surprise, they could have caused very serious damage,” Barak said Aug. 6. “This will not be the last time that we come across attempts to harm us.”


Posted by Jack Kessler
08/10/2012  at  01:46 PM
More Zionist Plots

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, the President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, fired his Chief of Intelligence, Murad Muwafi, today.  It seems that “Islamic militants”, newspaperese for Hamas terrorists, murdered 16 Egyptian policemen in Sinai near Egypt’s border with Israel while the Egyptian border police did nothing to prevent it or even to defend themselves because no one had told them the attack was coming

The IDF, the Israel Defense Force, had warned the Egyptian intelligence ministry well in advance that the attack was coming. Intelligence Chief Murad Muwafi decided to do nothing about the warning both because it came from Israel and because he was sure that “no Muslim would harm a fellow Muslim during Ramadan.”  In spite of his title and office, apparently Muwafi was not strong on intelligence.

Which creates a lovely situation in Egypt.  President Morsi is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood which is devoted to worsening relations with Israel as much as they can short of abrogating the Camp David peace treaty.  Abrogating the treaty would cost Egypt its annual $1.2 billion aid package from the US so Morsi’s policy has been to come as close to breaching the treaty as possible short of the US government cutting off aid.

Now President Morsi is in the position of having had 16 of his policemen massacred by their fellow Muslims in spite of the best of efforts of the Zionist enemy to save them.  And massacred because of the incompetence of his government.  And the particular form of the incompetence was in distrusting the Jews and trusting Muslims instead. 

And it is all public knowledge because of the internet and cellphone connectivity among the Egyptian public which is what put Morsi into power in the first place.  It is graceless to gloat over Morsi’s discomfiture, but that is just the sort of schmuck I am.

I think the whole episode has to have shown President Morsi, with life and death concreteness, the value of the peace treaty with Israel.  The education of President Morsi may have come at the cost of 16 Egyptian lives, but it bodes well for the prospects of continued peace between Israel and Egypt under the new regime.

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