In the corridors of power in Jerusalem and Cairo, this week’s fire of two Grad rockets on Eilat came as a surprise to no one.
Last week Israel deployed an Iron Dome battery to the Red Sea resort city after intelligence warnings of impending rocket attacks from Sinai.
An additional battery has also been placed on Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast at Ashkelon, amid worries that the intermittent rocket fire from Gaza may soon escalate to something bigger.
What’s more surprising is the attempt by unnamed “Egyptian sources” to insist in Arabic media that the rockets on Eilat hadn’t come from Sinai. The Egyptians know well who’s behind Sinai’s growing instability. There are five or six “global jihad” groups, most of them linked to Gaza, striving unceasingly to strike Israeli and Egyptian targets.
Al Jazeera recently reported on another incident this week in Sinai in which Egyptian officer was shot to death and a number of his soldiers wounded. Late last month armed Bedouin released an Israeli citizen, Amir Omar Hassan of Nazareth, and his Norwegian female friend after holding them hostage for four days.
Members of the international observer force in Sinai have also been targeted and abducted by armed men. The incidence of roadside robberies and the kidnapping of Egyptian police and security forces is seemingly rising every week.
In short: Sinai is a mess, despite Egyptian assurances to the contrary.
And yet it is also true that Egypt’s Armed Forces is showing some impressive motivation to return the peninsula to Cairo’s control. Over the last few months Egyptian forces have thwarted the transfer of long-range missiles into Gaza. They are uncovering weapons caches in Sinai on an almost daily basis.
And yet that’s not nearly enough. Israel’s public security minister Avi Dichter once compared trying to end suicide terrorism to trying to empty a barrel with a teaspoon. Dichter’s point was that eventually you get to the bottom of the barrel. For Israel, however, getting to the bottom of the barrel in the West Bank required a broad-based operation of a kind that the Egyptians may never launch in the Sinai Peninsula.
Yes Sinai’s terror infrastructure is smaller than one might think. It’s not thousands of Al-Qaeda fighters, and probably not even hundreds. Shooting some rockets at Israel doesn’t require a full complement of terrorists. A small cadre, one that knows Sinai’s terrain and is close to its Bedouin inhabitants, will do the job. A few motivated individuals with access to the plentiful weapons flow from Libya are enough to present a clear and present danger.
[Photo: CLIKATV / yOUtUBE]