Israel Prepares for Escalation of Violence: Southern Highway Ordered Closed
In the wake of Wednesday’s terror attacks in Egypt’s Sinai, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot have ordered a highway in the south of Israel closed to civilian traffic starting at 5 a.m. Friday.
“The closing of the highway is temporary, in accordance with an assessment of the security situation and out of a commitment to protect the safety of Israel’s citizens,” the IDF said in a statement released on Thursday evening.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his condolences to the Egyptian government after the terror attacks on Wednesday left some 70 Egyptians, mostly soldiers, dead, according to reports.
“We see IS acting with extraordinary cruelty both at our northern and our southern borders,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We send our condolences to the Egyptian government and the families of those who were killed in battle,” he added.
The closing of the highway, which traverses the Negev Desert toward Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat, comes after Israeli security officials voiced concern that Waliyat Sinai, the ISIS-affiliated terror group responsible for the attacks, may be planning to strike Israel as well.
“We have our eyes open and are in full coordination with the Egyptian security forces,” an IDF spokesman cited by Israeli media said, noting that the IDF has been placed on high alert along the Israel-Sinai border.
So far, Israel’s reaction has been limited to aiding Egypt by allowing the government to deploy more troops in the Sinai than is permitted by the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty.
In a separate statement, Major-General Yoav Mordechai, a senior military policymaker, drew attention to the link between the violence in the Sinai and the Hamas terror organization.
“We have clear information showing that Hamas supports Waliyat Sinai with weapons and organizational aid,” Mordechai said in an interview on Al-Jazeera on Thursday, citing the names of Hamas commanders whom Israel believes to have actively participated in aiding the Islamist group.