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Details Emerge of Israeli-Egyptian Security Cooperation in Sinai Peninsula

Analysts are continuing to unpack Israeli and Egyptian military cooperation, amid confusing regarding a strike this month against jihadists in the northern Sinai Peninsula and after – according to foreign sources – a meeting took place last Tuesday in Cairo between a top Israeli security official and Egyptian counterparts.

The meeting was reported on by Egypt’s Masrawy news site said, citing German news agency DPA.

As for the strike – which likely targeted an Al Qaeda-linked terror group near Rafah, a border city between Egypt and the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip – details remain vague and mysterious..

On Thursday August 8th the IDF ordered a short closure of the airport near the Red Sea resort town Eilat, near the Israeli-Egyptian border. Sources who spoke to The Tower described the decision as based on an “intelligence warning of a possible attack against the airport and planes.” Eilat has been a target for several rocket attacks in the last four years from fired from the Sinai by Hamas and Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.

The next day a report emerged in Palestinian media, claiming that an Israeli drone fired a missile at a Grad rocket depot controlled by a local Al Qaeda group. The report was picked up by the Associated Press, and from there to most of the Israeli media outlets. Israeli experts commented that if such a strike was executed it must have been coordinated with the Egyptian authorities, emphasizing that Israel would not jeopardize its fragile peace treaty with Egypt by violating Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai.

Reports varied as the purported basis for action, with some sources saying that the intelligence tip came from Egypt.

The press office of the Egyptian Army denied those reports and rejected suggestions of secret Israeli-Egyptian military and intelligence coordination.

The Israeli Defense Forces and the Ministry of Defense refused to comment on the story thus leaving the incident in a “space of deniability” for both sides.

It is certainly possible that the attack was conducted directly by the Egyptian army. The military is conducting a massive military campaign in the Sinai, designed to uproot Al Qaeda cells composed mainly local Bedouins backed “volunteers” from Yemen and Somalia as well as radical Islamists from Gaza.The Egyptian army deployed reinforcements using gunship helicopters and armored vehicles after Israel granting its permission for the operation.

In any case, eyewitnesses reported that the depot – which held relatively long distance rockets with ranges of up 70 kilometers – was hit from the air by a missile launched from a distance.

The accounts, if accurate, increase the likelihood that Israel was behind the attack. In the last years the Israeli Air Force and the Navy have been very active in long range missions in the Red Sea area, targeting boats in sea and land convoys in the Sudan seeking to smuggle weapons from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The IAF also reportedly destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and, in the shadow of the Syrian civil war, has reportedly struck advanced weapons in Syria at least four times in the last 8 months.

In the Israeli military parlance the clandestine military operations are defined as CBW – campaigns between wars.

[Photo: Prince Roy / Flickr]