Common enemy is solidifying Egyptian-Israeli security relations, trust as Egypt launches massive anti-terror operation in Sinai
As Egyptian troops were launching a harsh crackdown on Islamist groups in the northern Sinai Peninsula, Israeli officials were silent publicly but more than satisfied privately. Both Bedouin residents in Sinai and Egyptian officials said the crackdown was the harshest in recent years, with tanks and troops backed by Apache helicopters striking at gunmen along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip.
Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing on Saturday effectively trapping 1.7 million Palestinians inside Gaza. The only other exit from the enclave is the Erez border crossing that connects with Israel, which is used primarily by Palestinians who need urgent medical treatment in the Jewish state.
Egyptian officials said that at least nine gunmen and two soldiers were killed in Saturday’s attacks and that the assault on jihadist groups will continue. The crackdown began after former President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was deposed on July 3, and the Egyptian army re-took control of the country. The government operation against terrorists has been stepped up in the past few days.
“The Egyptians seem to be doing what they think is necessary to rein in terrorist and jihadists of all sorts in Sinai,” a senior Israeli official told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. “Enforcing law and order in Sinai has been a long time coming. Egyptian stability and security is good for Israel but they’re not doing this for us. This is a purely Egyptian interest.”
According to Israeli army figures, more than 300 attacks were launched against Egyptian troops in Sinai over the past few weeks. Last month, 25 Egyptian policemen were shot to death execution-style in the Sinai, prompting widespread anger in Cairo.
Israeli military sources say there are hundreds of terrorists in Sinai, most of who belong to two major jihadist groups who are supported by local Bedouin tribes. Some of the gunmen come from Iraq and Yemen and are tied to global jihad and al-Qaeda . While their primary target is the Egyptian military, they are also interested in carrying out attacks against Israel.
Over the past two months, Egyptian soldiers have sealed about 80% of the hundreds of tunnels that have been dug between Egypt and Gaza, having been used to smuggle weapons and drugs, as well as consumer goods, between the two sides.
Sealing the tunnels has put the squeeze on Gazans, who, for instance, now have to pay much more for gasoline imported from Israel instead of having access to Egyptian-subsidized gas. For the jihadists in Sinai, closing the tunnels means shutting-off an important avenue of escape in the event of an attack by the Egyptian army.
“I believe there will be more Takfiri (one of the jihadist groups) attacks in the coming days because the Egyptian troops are attacking indiscriminately, and they kill civilians as well,” Gomaa Sawarka a Bedouin resident a leading figure of the Sawarka tribe in Sinai told The Media Line. “These …read more