It’s a long time since we’ve seen such a deadly co-ordinated terrorist attack carried out on sovereign Israeli territory as today’s triple attack near Eilat. Our hearts go out to the families of those who were killed and to those recovering from their injuries. While the peace treaty with Egypt is still in place and functioning, its future may well depend on the make-up of the yet-to-be-formed Egyptian government. An elected government dominated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could easily decide to renege on the treaty, leaving Israel with one more border to defend against surrounding enemies.
Amazingly, much of the border between Israel and Egyptian Sinai is just a line on the map, although this is now swiftly being rectified. A combination of refugees from Somalia and Sudan entering Israel illegally and the comparative ease with which terror groups can now leave Gaza through the Rafiah crossing and enter Israel through the Sinai, reinforced by the potential fragility of the exsiting peace treaty with Egypt has forced Israel to face up to the problems of defending such a huge length of hitherto relatively safe international border.
While the Sinai is largely desert, it does have a loose population of bedouin, drug and weapon smugglers and transient refugees, terrorists and migrants. Added to this unregulated mix is, rumour has it, a new ‘Salafist’ terror group linked to Al Qaeda. Israel believes, however, that today’s attackers came out of Gaza via the Rafiah crossing and made their way through the desert to the Israeli border North of Eilat. Israel swiftly backed up this conclusion with an aerial attack that targetted and killed the leadership of the Popular Resistance Committee, the group that also kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Seven of today’s attackers were killed by the IDF or killed themselves with suicide bombs, but the point has been made: Israel has a vulnerable ‘underbelly’ along its border with Egypt. It will not be long before it’s tested again. Anyone want a fence-building contract?