Analyis: Israel fears new generation of jihadists on its borders (TELEGRAPH UK) By The Daily Beast, Dan Ephron 08/10/12)
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A surge of violence in Egypt´s Sinai desert this week is heightening
Israeli concerns about what officials and analysts describe as the
growing presence of al-Qaeda-linked jihadis along the Jewish state´s
Egypt used warplanes in Sinai for the first time in decades to strike
at the militants this week, after Islamists killed 16 Egyptian
security men Sunday, stole a truck full of explosives and an armored
vehicle and headed for Israel to try and perpetrate more violence.
The truck exploded harmlessly at the border while an Israeli fighter
plane bombed the other vehicle, preventing what could have been a
devastating terrorist attack.
But the incident underscored the ways in which rising lawlessness not
just in Sinai but also in Syria—another of Israel´s neighbours —could
embroil Israel in new and menacing security problems, even as its
conflict with the Palestinians remains largely dormant.
“I think we’re finally starting to wake up and understand that the
instability, in Syria even more than in Egypt, is allowing jihadi
groups to come in,” said David Bukay, a professor of Middle East
studies at Israel’s Haifa University. “People have to understand that
the alternative to Bashar al-Assad is al-Qaeda,” he said.
In Syria, the violence has yet to extend to the Golan Heights, the
mountainous border region that Israel has occupied since capturing it
from Syria in 1967. But the combination of a weakening central
authority and the potential for chemical weapons to fall into the
hands of jihadi groups has prompted grim assessments.
Bukay is one of the more strident voices in the Israeli discourse on
evolving security threats. He says the United States erred in helping
Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi and should now be backing Assad
rather than supporting the uprising underway Syria. In the case of
Libya, he said, the government that replaced Gaddafi is helping arm
Islamic insurgents across the region.
Most Israeli government and military officials reject the idea that
Assad should be propped up. They say his departure would deal a major
blow to Iran, which has close ties with the Assad regime. And they
point to his crackdown on the popular rebellion, with more 15,000
civilians killed across Syria, as evidence of his brutality.
But they do share Bukay’s assessment on the growing presence of
jihadis in both Syria and Egypt.
In a closed-door briefing last month, the head of Israel’s military
intelligence, Major-General Aviv Kochavi told Israeli lawmakers: “The
Golan area is liable to become an arena of operations against Israel
in much the same way the Sinai is today, and that’s a result of the
increasing entrenchment of global jihad in Syria.”
In Egypt, the situation is complicated by the election earlier this
summer of an Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi pledged after the border incident earlier this week to wipe out
the groups in Sinai responsible for the violence. He ordered
airstrikes yesterday after a second clash between militants and
Egyptian security men—the first involvement of the Egyptian air force
in Sinai in decades.
But Israelis say Morsi’s reluctance to engage in the kind of close
security cooperation with Israel that existed during the long reign
of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, has hampered efforts to stem the
“Egypt doesn’t have effective control over the areas and the Islamic
fundamentalist tribes are actually controlling the area, challenging
the regime and doing whatever they want in Sinai,” said Dan Harel, a
retired Israeli general who commanded Israel’s southern region,
including the border area with Egypt, from 2003 to 2006
He said Israel had conveyed intelligence information to Egypt ahead
of border attack but that the other side failed to act on it.
Not much is known about the jihadis operating in Sinai and neither
side could say precisely which group carried out the attack. Israel
says the Sinai extremists have ties to militants in the Gaza Strip,
though it’s not clear what evidence Israelis have to support it.
Israel and Egypt have been at peace since their landmark accord in
1979. The agreement lays out restrictions on the number of troops
Egypt can deploy in Sinai, which Israel returned to Egypt as part of
Morsi said during his campaign that he would honor the agreement but
might seek changes in order to allow Egypt to deploy more troops in
But Israel says it already consented to a large deployment that the
Egyptians never made. This article was originally published on
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