Sinai Attacks Show Risks in Israel (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By JOSHUA MITNICK TEL AVIV, ISRAEL 06/19/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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TEL AVIV—A deadly string of attacks erupted along Israel´s southern
border on Monday, leaving at least seven dead and highlighting the
strains on the country´s ties with Egypt during Cairo´s rocky
In an early-morning ambush, a team of gunmen from Egypt´s Sinai
Peninsula snuck into Israel and attacked defense-ministry vehicles
with building contractors overseeing the construction of a border
barrier meant to prevent just such an infiltration. No one claimed
Israeli soldiers killed two of the infiltrators, and troops carried
out a several-hour manhunt along the border in search of more
militants. Israel´s army called tanks to a partially demilitarized
border area to bolster the response, a rare move given the peace
treaty with Egypt, which permits only infantry to be stationed in the
Hours later, Israeli aircraft targeted a squad of Palestinian snipers
in the northern Gaza Strip, killing two Islamic Jihad members. An
Israeli military spokesman said the strikes were unrelated to the
There was no immediate response from the Palestinian Authority. The
Islamic Jihad said the men were members on a "reconnaissance" mission
and vowed revenge.
The day of violence came just days after two Grad Katyusha rockets
were fired from Sinai at areas in southern Israel with military
bases. The liberal Ha´aretz newspaper reported Sunday the attack had
been ordered by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood via Hamas. A senior
Israeli defense official, Amos Gilad, dismissed the report.
Israeli military officials have said in private they understand that
Egypt´s military rulers have been focused on domestic politics rather
than tightening control over the vast Sinai Desert. Still, an upsurge
in attacks underscored the potential for the security vacuum to
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed victory for its candidate,
Mohammed Morsi, in the elections that ended Sunday.
"We see here a disturbing deterioration in Egyptian control in the
Sinai," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a statement. "We are
waiting for the results of the election. Whoever wins, we expect them
to take responsibility for all of Egypt´s international commitments,
including the peace treaty with Israel, and the security arrangements
in the Sinai; [and] swiftly putting an end to these attacks."
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the
U.S. condemned the "terrorist attacks on civilians in Israel from the
Sinai" and encouraged "the Egyptian government to find a lasting
resolution to the issue of Sinai security."
Egypt´s ruling military generals didn´t comment publicly on the
The Monday attack was the worst attack since August, when a group of
infiltrators killed eight Israelis, touching off a cross-border fight
that left several Egyptian soldiers dead. That flare-up touched off
riots in Egypt at the Israeli Embassy that required the intervention
of the U.S. to prevent the harming of Israeli security guards.
Despite widespread anxiety in Israel about the growing political
uncertainty in Egypt, Israeli officials and analysts have predicted
that the countries´ three-decade-old peace treaty would survive no
matter who emerged victorious in the presidential election. Israeli
and Egyptian militaries enjoy a good working rapport.
Nonetheless, some Israeli commentators expressed concern on Monday
that bilateral ties might be eroded by the election of an Islamist
"Regardless of the identity of the victor...it´s clear that Israel
should expect more incidents like this," wrote Avi Issacharoff on the
online website of the Ha´aretz newspaper. "The chaos in Sinai isn´t
expected to disappear in the near future."
The escalation in attacks leaves Israel limited options. The
country´s military won´t launch retaliatory cross-border attacks
because it would violate its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
Instead, Israel has invested tens of millions of dollars to build a
fence to plug up the 150 mile open frontier with Egypt. It has also
bulked up security patrols along the border.
Corrections & Amplifications
The Monday attack was the worst strike since August, when a group of
infiltrators killed eight Israelis. An earlier version of this
article mistakenly said that two Israelis had been killed in the
August attack. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 06/19/12)
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