In one of the boldest terror attacks ever on Israel’s border, Islamic terrorists conquered an Egyptian army post in Sinai, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers, Sunday night and then stormed an Israeli border checkpoint with two captured Egyptian armored vehicles filled with bombs.
Gunmen from Al-Qaeda (also known as “World Jihad”) managed to cross into Israeli territory, but Israel blunted the attack with the help of aircraft, killing five to seven raiders, without Israeli losses, but the assault proved Al-Qaeda was firmly based in Sinai, endangering the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and the new Egyptian regime.
“The Middle East as we know it has effectively ceased to exist,” declared Dr. Guy Bechor, an Arab affairs expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, explaining that Israel’s borders and its neighboring states had become destabilized by the revolution in Egypt and the civil war in Syria.
In recent months, Al-Qaeda and similar Islamic terror groups have used Sinai as a base for attacking Israel, nearby Jordan and fuel pipelines leading to both countries, and the terrorists have been strengthened by weapons recently smuggled across the desert from Libya or brought in from Syria and Iran via Gaza.
There are believed to be at least six different terror groups operating in Sinai, many of them benefiting from the smuggling talents of eleven local Bedouin tribes as well as the porous border from Sinai and Gaza where the Hamas terror organization rules.
“The time is coming when Israel will have no choice but to intervene in events in Sinai,” asserted Alex Fishman, the military commentator for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot.
Egypt’s government said Sunday’s attack was aided by terrorists in Gaza, and this badly embarrassed Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood that is close to the Hamas terror organization that controls Gaza. Indeed, Morsi opened up borders between Sinai and Gaza, making weapons movement easier.
Morsi said he would convene his military council to restore order to Sinai.
Sunday’s attack also mortified Hamas, because only a few days ago it freed a leading Al-Qaeda terror leader, Hisham Saidni, from custody. Hamas denied involvement in the attack, and it promised a speedy investigation.
Israeli officials said they were not sure if any of the terrorists escaped back into Sinai or Gaza, but Israel instigated a full security alert in its southern zone. For its part, Egypt was reportedly using helicopters and reinforcements to try and track down any terrorists near the border.
There have been several major terror strikes in Sinai in the last year, and the terrorists have not shied away from attacking and conquering Egyptian army posts and police stations, stealing the weapons and the uniforms of the Egyptians.
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Uzi Dayan, a commentator for Israeli television stations, said the instability inside Egypt and especially in eastern Sinai required Israel to step up fortification of its border and intelligence contacts inside the Bedouin tribes.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.