Egypt launches operation to gain control of Sinai (JERUSALEM POST) By YAAKOV LAPPIN, DANIEL CLINTON, JPOST.COM STAFF 04/08/12)
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Egypt announced Saturday that it was launching an operation in the
Sinai Peninsula aimed at restoring the state’s security control in
the region, which has been overrun by terrorist and extremist
elements since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall last year.
An Israeli official in Jerusalem said the Sinai operation had been
coordinated with Israel. It came after a Katyusha rocket was fired
from Sinai into Israel before dawn Thursday, exploding in Eilat.
On Saturday evening, IAF aircraft struck a terror cell attempting to
fire rockets into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, according to
the IDF Spokesman’s Office. Two Palestinians were injured in the
strike, which targeted a motorcycle near Rafah, according to
The IAF strike marked the first such action in Gaza since last month,
when Palestinians launched more than 200 rockets into southern
Israel, prompting a number of Israeli retaliatory strikes.
After the rocket landed in Eilat, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.
Benny Gantz said Israel viewed the attack with gravity and that it
had been the work of terrorist organizations operating in the
“Anyone who tests us from near or far will find himself facing a
strong and smart military prepared to defend Israel and defeat our
enemies,” Gantz said.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry said 150 special forces police
officers would be deployed in northern Sinai to help increase Egypt’s
sovereignty in the region, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
The deployment would be aimed specifically at protecting the pipeline
in Sinai that delivers natural gas to both Israel and Jordan.
Saboteurs have attacked the pipeline 13 times since the uprising
against Mubarak began last year.
The police reinforcements were also meant to prevent ambushes on army
forces traveling between the cities of El- Arish and Rafah, according
to the Egyptian statement.
Police bomb squad personnel in Eilat found the shell of a second Grad
rocket just west of the city on Saturday. The rocket had been fired
together with a number of others at Eilat on Thursday, when several
explosions were heard in the Red Sea resort.
“It had a 122-millimeter diameter. Police found it west of Eilat just
outside of the city,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Last week, shortly after the rocket attack, a police bomb squad
dispatched to track down rocket blast sites found the remnants of one
Grad rocket near residential buildings. It removed the projectile
from the scene.
Following the attack, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv
Kochavi revealed that the IDF had thwarted 10 different terrorist
plots to attack Israel from Sinai in the past two months.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for new Military Intelligence
officers, Kochavi said that the rocket had been a warning about the
changes sweeping the Middle East.
“It could be that the change will bring new opportunities, but in the
short term the risks are increasing,” Kochavi said.
The rocket strike on Eilat did not come as a surprise for the IDF,
which has been closely tracking Palestinian terrorist activities in
Sinai since an attack along the Egyptian border in August left eight
Israelis dead. IDF assessments are that the perpetrators of
Thursday’s attack were either a Palestinian rocket cell from Gaza –
affiliated with either Hamas or Islamic Jihad – or Beduin working for
the Gaza-based organizations.
Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak-Halevy said his city would continue
functioning as usual despite the attack.
“We have no intention of changing our daily routine,” he told Army
Radio. “I call on all Israeli citizens to come enjoy the warm weather
in our city this Passover.”
Israel has called on Cairo to increase its efforts to restore order
in Sinai and to prevent attacks, but the Egyptian military has held
back from dismantling the Hamas infrastructure in the peninsula.
In December, The Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas had established
rocket production lines in Sinai and was also moving some of its
weapons caches there to protect them from Israeli air strikes.
More than a dozen Egyptian army battalions allowed into Sinai with
Israel’s permission (required because of limits placed on Egyptian
forces there under the peace treaty) are still operating, although
with limited success in stopping terrorist activity and arms
smuggling to the Gaza Strip.
Ma’an quoted Egyptian security sources as saying Saturday that Israel
had agreed to temporarily allow seven more Egyptian army battalions
into Sinai to help with the crackdown on terrorist elements.
Yaakov Katz and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report. (© 1995-
2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/08/12)
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