Posted on | augustus 8, 2012 | 1 Comment
Egypt’s military killed 20 militants in a raid using helicopter gunships in Sinai on Wednesday, three days after 16 soldiers were killed in an attack by presumed Islamic extremists on a base of border guards near the border with Israel.
Wednesday’s he attack took place in a village named Tumah. Soldiers of he 2nd Infantry Division stormed the village. Air strikes were also reported near the town of Sheikh Zuwayid, close to Tumah. Gunbattles were reported around the Al Gura airport in North-Sinai close to the Israeli border. Military choppers destroyed 3 4x4s on ground. Meanwhile security forces massed near the Rafah border town for what according to military sources was to be a decisive confrontation with the militants.
Wednesday’s attack seem to have been provoked by attacks by unknown assailants on security checkpoints near the town of El-Arish, the preceding night. It was clear eve before that, however, that Sunday’s attack on a border post whereby 16 border policemen were killed and seven wounded, could not have passed without repercussions. The soldiers were killed when 35 people in Bedouin outfits, presumably Islamist militants, in two 4x4s raided a border guard base under the cover of mortar fire when the guards were having their iftar meal.The attackers commandeered two armoured personnel carriers (APC’s). One exploded near the border with Israel under yet unclear circumstances (maybe as a divisive move), the other one managed to drive some two kilometers into Israel before it was destroyed by Israeli helicopters. Security sources said that mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel as the APC entered Israel near the border crossing Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom).
The attack underscored the lawlessness in the Sinai, where numerous attacks on policeposts have taken place the past month and where the pipeline that provided gas to Jordan ad Israel have been blown up no less than 15 times in about as many months. What made the situation extra painful is that Israeli sources
said that Israel had had advance warning that something was going to happen in the area, which was the reason that it was able to deal as quickly as it did with the intruding APC.
The events must have increased the determination of the Egyptian military to deal once and forever with the anarchy around El Arish and the border with Gaza and its opaque cluster of tunnel smugglers and their providers. Egypt had closed the border with Gaza already on Tuesday ad security forces had raided homes in search of suspects in the attack, while they also prepared to close tunnels to the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
Although it is far from clear who were behind Sunday’s attack ad the attempt to enter Israel, it is clear that the events have complicated the position of Egypt’s president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters who are close to the Hamas government in Gaza. Morsi had supported to open the border with Gaza. But in light of what happened, he has no choice but to go along with demands of the army, which was underscored by the fact that he paid a visit to El Arish on Monday, together with minister of Defense Tantawi. And the army is less much less lenient towards Hamas to say the least, even though Hamas and other parties in Gaza went out of their way to distance themselves from what has happened. Morsi, who was also criticized for not attending the funeral ceremonies of the 16 killed border guards, will have to back away.
In the meantime the whole situation might also increase the tension between Israel and Egypt, as it is clear that the end result – closing off Gaza – is favorable for Israel. Also the situation is ripe for conspiracy theories. The Muslim Brotherhood gave an example in kid by declaring that the Israeli Mossad might have bee instrumental in organizing Sunday’s attacks.
AUTHOR: Martin Hijmans
E-MAIL: m.hijmans [at] planet.nl