Israel

With Eye on Egypt Sinai Campaign, Israel Deploys Iron Dome to Southern Resort Town

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have deployed one battery of the Iron Dome anti-missile system to Israel’s Red Sea port of Eilat. The decision was made by the Chief of Staff Lt.General Benny Gantz, after consultations with other commanders of the military and with an eye toward the increased threat posed by the security deterioration in the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Peninsula.

Eilat is Israel’s most popular resort town as is currently reaping the benefits of summer tourism, with tens of thousands of vacationers staying in its hotels and beaches.

The Egyptian army has been assembling forces in northern Sinai to uproot terror networks operating in the area. One of the major missions of the military campaign is to block and destroy the illegal tunnels which connect the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip with the Sinai. The tunnels – most of which are dug with the Hamas’s approval and are an important source of income for the terror group -are used to smuggle weapons, including rockets, and move terrorists in both directions. Hamas also taxes the tunnel owners and puts levies on the goods which are transferred.

The Israeli fear is that terrorist groups operating in the Sinai will launch rocket attacks at Eilat as in retaliation for an ongoing, massive anti-terror campaign currently being waged in the territory by the Egyptian army. Both renegade Palestinian organizations and Al Qaeda-linked groups are thought to pose such dangers.

Eilat has been targeted in recent years by rockets fired by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Al Qaeda-linked groups. Most of the attacks caused very little damage. In some instances rockets were also fired at the Jordanian resort city of Aqaba, which borders Eilat and shares with the city the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba-Eilat.

For the first time since the military toppled President Mohammad Morsi three weeks ago, Hamas denounced the Egyptian army and its Sinai campaign. A senior Hamas official complained that Egypt has destroyed tens of tunnels which are “our economic pipeline” and added that “Egypt wants to strangle the Gazan inhabitants.” The phrase, in the past, was usually reserved for condemnations of Israel.

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