Israel Looks to Sinai as Egypt Crisis Grows
JNS.org – Israel should do all it can to help the new secular government in Egypt beat the Muslim Brotherhood, even if that means amending the Military Annex of the Camp David peace accords to allow more Egyptian military assets into the Sinai Peninsula, the former director of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office Brig. Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel said Sunday.
Speaking to Army Radio, Nuriel said a defeat for the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in the Sinai would reverberate across the Middle East, and would be of huge strategic importance to Israel.
Pointing to increasing instability in the Sinai, Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman (Likud-Beytenu) warned over the weekend that jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula are taking advantage of the current turmoil in Egypt to stage attacks on Israel.
“What is transpiring in Egypt should in no doubt be worrying us,” he said. “This is our largest neighboring country, the first one we signed a peace agreement with, and clearly instability over there carries implications for the entire region. It is in our interest for Egypt to be stable and in full control over its territory.”
A Salafi terror group took responsibility for rocket fire on Eilat last Thursday. The Sunni extremist group Jamaat Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis stated in a message from its Sinai base that the group would continue to target Israel.
“Jews, enemies of Allah, are those who are responsible for what is happening in Egypt and their long arm is to blame for the current situation,” the statement said. “We bombed them to scare them and let them know that Allah is with us.”
In addition, a new Islamist terrorist group in the Sinai calling itself Ansar al-Shariah announced its formation amid the chaos. The group, in a statement posted on an online forum for terrorists, said it would gather arms and start training its members, Reuters reported. The group blamed the turmoil in Egypt on secularists, Egyptian Coptic Christians, state security forces and army commanders.
Ansar al-Shariah denounced democracy and said it would instead champion Islamic law (sharia), acquire weapons, and train Muslims to “deter the attackers, preserve the religion and empower the sharia.”
An Israeli defense official told Israel Radio on Saturday that the global jihad call to fight the Egyptian army over the weekend will “lead the army to take further action against Islamist elements and make a determined effort to restore order.”
Last week, Egypt sealed numerous tunnels to prevent arms smuggling from Sinai into Egypt that may destabilize the mainland. The Israeli defense official told Israel Radio that while events in Egypt were a blow to Hamas, the terror group would continue to maintain its cease-fire with Israel because it is in Hamas’s own interests to do so.
Meanwhile, Egyptian security officials say suspected Islamic terrorists have bombed a natural gas pipeline to Jordan south of the city of el-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula.
In addition to starting fires that were quickly put out, the attacks early Sunday on two points on the pipeline disrupted the flow of natural gas, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In January, suspected Islamic terrorists attacked a police patrol along a Sinai pipeline, wounding seven policemen. Though it had come under attack more than a dozen times in the previous two years, Sunday was the first attack on Egypt’s natural gas pipelines in Sinai in more than a year.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the pipeline and checkpoint attacks, or if they were in reaction to the Egyptian army’s overthrow of Morsi on July 3.