Two Toyota Land Cruisers filled with about 15 well-built gunmen in ski masks and all-black outfits appear seemingly out of nowhere. Behind them is vast, open desert. They approach a group of soldiers huddled around a simple meal as they prepare to break their Ramadan fast. The gunmen open fire, leaving the soldiers with no chance of retrieving their weapons.
This is not an opening scene of a Hollywood action movie. The massacre actually took place at an Egyptian military post in northern Sinai on August 5. The description above was conveyed by a witness, Eissa Mohamed Salama, in a statement made to The Associated Press (AP; Aug 8). The gunmen were well trained. Their overt confidence can only be explained by the fact that "one militant got out a camera and filmed the bodies of the soldiers".
One is immediately baffled by this. Why would the masked militants wish to document the killings if they were about to embark on what can be considered a suicide mission in Israel? "The gunmen then approached the Israeli border," with two vehicles, one reportedly a stolen Egyptian armored personnel carrier. The British Broadcasting Corp, citing Israeli officials, reported that one of the vehicles "exploded on the frontier", while the other broke through the Israeli border, "travelled about 2 kilometers into Israel before being disabled by the Israeli air force" (BBC News Online, Aug 7). According to the BBC report, citing Israeli sources, there were about 35 gunmen in total, all clad in traditional Bedouin attire.
Their mission into Israel was suicidal, since, unlike in Sinai, they had nowhere to escape. But who would embark on such a logistically complex mission, document it on camera, and then fail to take responsibility for it? The brazen attack seemed to have little military wisdom, but it did possess a sinister political logic.
Only 48 hours before the attack, the media were awash with reports about the return of electricity in the Gaza Strip. The impoverished Strip's generators have not run at full capacity for about six years, since Hamas was elected. The Israeli siege and subsequent wars killed and wounded thousands, but they failed to bend Gaza's political will. For Gazans, the keyword to their survival in the face of Israel's blockade was "Egypt".
The Egyptian revolution on January 25, 2011, carried a multitude of meanings for all sectors of Egyptian society, and the Middle East at large. For Palestinians in Gaza, it heralded the possibility of a lifeline. The nearly 1,000 tunnels dug to assist in Gaza's survival would amount to nothing compared with a decisive Egyptian decision to end the siege by opening the Rafah border.
In fact, a decision was taking place in stages. Hamas, which governs Gaza, was a branch of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The latter is now the leading political force in the country and, despite the military's obduracy, it has managed to claim the country's presidency as well.
In late July, a high-level Hamas delegation met in Cairo. All the stress and trepidation of the last 16 months seemed to have come to an end, as Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, his deputy Musa Abu Marzouq and other members of the group's politburo met with President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt's official news agency reported Morsi's declarations of full support "for the Palestinian nation's struggle to achieve its legitimate rights". According to Reuters, Morsi's top priority was achieving unity "between Hamas and Fatah, supplying Gaza with fuel and electricity and easing the restrictions on the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt".
Juxtapose that scene - where a historical milestone has finally been reached - with an Agence France-Presse photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, standing triumphantly next to a burned Egyptian vehicle that was reportedly stolen by the Sinai gunmen. The message here is that only Israel is serious about fighting terror. Israeli newspaper Haaretz' accompanying article started with this revelation: "Israel shared some of the intelligence it received with the Egyptian army prior to the incident, but there is no evidence Egypt acted on the information." This was meant to humiliate Egypt's military further.
Naturally, Israel blamed Gaza, even though there is no material evidence to back such accusations. Some in Egypt's media jumped on the opportunity to blame Gaza for Egypt's security problems in Sinai as well. The loudest among them were completely silent when, on August 18, 2011, Israel killed six Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.
Then, Israel carried out a series of strikes against Gaza, killing and wounding many, while claiming that Gaza was a source of attacks against Israeli civilians. Later the Israeli media dismissed the connection as flawed. No apologies for the Gaza deaths, of course, and AP, Reuters and others are still blaming Palestinians for the attack near Eilat last year. Then, Palestinian factions opted not to escalate to spare Egypt an unwanted conflict with Israel during a most sensitive transition.
None of that seems relevant now. Egypt is busy destroying the tunnels, continuing efforts that were funded by the US a few years ago. It also closed the Gaza-Egypt crossing, and is being "permitted" by Israel to use attack helicopters in Sinai to hunt for elusive terrorists. Within days, Gaza's misfortunes were multiplied and once more Palestinians are pleading their case.
Israeli officials and analysts are, of course, beside themselves with anticipation. The opportunity is simply too great not to be utilized fully. Commenting in Egypt-based OnIslam, Abdelrahman Rashdan wrote that according to the Israeli intelligence scenario, "Iranians, Palestinians, Egyptians, and al-Qaeda operatives all moved from Lebanon to attack Egypt [and] Israel and defend Syria."
In Western mainstream media, few asked who benefits from all of this - from once more isolating Gaza, shutting down the tunnels, severing Egyptian-Palestinian ties, embroiling the Egyptian military in a security nightmare in Sinai, and much more.
The Muslim Brotherhood website had an answer. It suggested that the incident "can be attributed to the Mossad". True, some Western media reported the statement, but not with any degree of seriousness or due analysis. The BBC even offered its own context: "Conspiracy theories are popular across the Arab world," ending the discussion with an Israeli dismissal of the accusation as "nonsense". Case closed. But it shouldn't be.
Egypt's president has taken his most decisive step yet to assert power over the influential military - sacking two top generals. The Defence Minister, who served as the country's interim leader after Hosni Mubarak was ousted, was dismissed along with the Chief of Staff. Morsi started to move more boldly against the army after an attack by militants in Sinai that killed 16 border guards. For more, RT talks to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar.
“This terrorist operation benefits only Israel”
Dr. Ashraf Ezzat
CAIRO – Every time I step into an elevator, I keep my fingers crossed till I reach my floor safely. I am not claustrophobic. I am just worried that a sudden power cut, which are frequent nowadays in Egypt, will leave me trapped inside a metal box for endless hours.
And in a way, I believe that this is what a lot of Egyptians subconsciously feel like these days; trapped in a big dark box.
Following the most polarizing presidential elections, and enduring through a lingering cycle of, recurrent sectarian strife, armed thuggery amidst an almost absence of proper policing … Egyptians broke up their Ramadan daily fast, last Sunday, to the horrible news of a terrorist attack on a border guard unit at the Israeli/Egyptian borders south of Rafah.
On August 5th evening at 7pm, a terrorist group of 35 people attacked an Egyptian border guard unit south of Rafah (the crossing point with Gaza), killing 16 soldiers and injuring 7; three of them in a critical condition.
“The Israelis are in a way quite happy that the Egyptians have learnt their lesson, that they have to listen to us, and have had to pay the price” Akiva Eldar, the chief political correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, told Al Jazeera when asked on his thoughts on the recent deadly attack on the Egyptian guard station.
Watch the video of the wounded and slain Egyptian soldiers as they were taken to Rafah Hospital. Warning, the video contains some graphic scenes.
The terrorist group then took over an army Armed Personnel Carrier and used it to storm the Egypt-Israel border where Israeli forces destroyed it.”
But that’s not all, Coinciding with the attack, elements from the Gaza Strip carried out a mortar shell attack on the Karam Abu-Salem border crossing – which is shared by Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
An anonymous Egyptian security official was quoted by Egypt’s state-run news agency, MENA, as saying that Jihadist elements that infiltrated Egypt from the Gaza Strip through tunnels are behind the attacks, along with other Islamists situated in the areas of Al-Halal Mountain and Al-Mahdia in eastern Sinai. However Hamas, for its part, denied its involvement in the attacks.
Now, there is a lot to this terrorist raid than just the simple “hit and run” followed by the routine combing of the Israeli/Egyptian border and hunting down the assailants.
Israel and Egypt’s Sinai peninsula
First of all, this terrorist attack comes, for those political analysts observing the Sinai security status, as no surprise at all.
Since the Jan 25 2011 revolution and due to the chaos and the security vacuum that ensued, the Sinai Peninsula-especially the northern part- has turned into the biggest black market for smuggled arms, pouring from Libya and Israel, and a haven for groups of jihadist militants, the kind of Islamist militants the USA and Israel just love to refer to as al-Qaeda.
This attack which targeted a 23-soldier-gurad unit and took only a few minutes to control the outpost, kill and wound all 23 guards, including highly trained officers, seize the weaponry and two armed vehicles and then, according to plan, storm into the Israeli side of the border that synchronized with heavy shelling from Gaza tells us a lot.
YouTube - Veterans Today -
The precision of the attack and the fact that there was no one of the assailants captured, or gunned down or even injured by the Egyptian forces; indicate that this was a job pulled by professionals.
The attack also and straightforwardly tells us that the protection and security, Egyptian military says it provides along the Israeli borders, as well as over the whole of the Sinai Peninsula is nothing but a big joke.
An Egyptian soldier in an outpost at the borders with Israel
A man in a military uniform won’t just do the job anymore; you don’t send helpless young men, with the minimum training and gear and expect them to protect the Egyptian borders with a hot spot state like Israel.
This terrorist operation was not the first in Sinai, two weeks earlier two army soldiers were gunned down by a couple of veiled terrorists riding a motorcycle.
The pipeline that supply Israel and Jordan with Egypt’s natural gas has been bombed 15 times after the ousting of Mubarak. And in July 2011, a group of jihadists stormed the city of al-Arish (biggest city in northern Sinai) and bombarded the police station in the city with grenades and semi-automatic rifles.
Anyway, two days after the border attack, It seems that Israel Okayed the deployment of a few battalions from Egypt’s second army and air forces units into the deeper/and closer-to-Israel territories of the Sinai Peninsula, designated as area B & C, which according to the 1979 Camp David accords only allowed the stationing of some units of police forces and lately border guard units with light arms.
According to eye witnesses the Egyptian military is waging one of its biggest operations in Sinai since the October war with Israel 1973. Having combed most of the tribal areas in northern Sinai, the military has so far gunned down 20 Salafi Jihadists who engaged in violence acts against military checkpoints.
Throughout the long 30 years of his reign, deposed President Mubarak, through his close collaboration/collusion with Israel, saw to it that Sinai was utterly neglected and excluded from any developmental plans. And I’m afraid if the current Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government kept up this policy and continued to view Sinai as merely a buffer zone between Egypt and Israel, then it won’t be long before Egypt will lose the peninsula to Israel once again.
Regardless of how the brainwashed Jihadists view it, This terrorist operation only benefits Israel. And in fact, some Egyptian analysts have strong doubts as to the role of Israel in this terrorist operation and how it had been anticipated by the Israeli intelligence only two days before.
What are the chances for two armed vehicles haphazardly storming the Israeli borders of surviving the attack, let alone achieve anything. Were the assailants not aware that they would be spotted on the Israelis’ radar the moment they crossed the line and stepped into the Israeli side of the borders? … Or were they assured otherwise?
Also, the way the Israeli forces had destroyed /scorched the armed vehicles eliminating any hope for the Egyptian side to identify or find a clue to help track down the suspects, added to more doubts about the Israeli involvement.
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