A New IDF Military Framework to Guard borders and Fight Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda’s Grad missile attack from Egyptian Sinai on Israel’s southernmost town of Eilat Wednesday, April 17, found all three intelligence services of the US, Israel and Egypt wanting.
None were ready, although they had all been forewarned as early as April 1 of plans by Al Qaeda cells and local Salafi elements in Sinai and Gaza for a large-scale assault on southern Israel. In fact, the Israeli Defense Forces doubled its strength on the its Sinai border with Egypt and placed two Iron Dome missile interceptor batteries outside Eilat and the town of Ashkelon opposite the Gaza Strip.
The US administration did its bit by urging Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to make every effort to prevent this attack being mounted from their territory.
Washington was directly concerned by the danger, lest it also put the US units of the Multinational Force and Observers-MFO stationed in Sinai, some belonging to the US 82nd Airborne Division, in harm’s way.
Using Cairo, Qatar and Turkey as intermediaries, Washington tried to get the Hamas rulers of Gaza to crack down on the Salafi elements, which in the last couple of weeks, had revived rocket fire against Israel after eight months of calm.
Although Hamas police made some arrests, it did not stop the rockets, which now appear to have been the starting signal for the main part of Al Qaeda’s offensive from Sinai.
Fortifying and rebuilding old border defenses
In Sinai and Gaza, Al Qaeda hides behind the title of 'Shura Mujahedeen Brigades around Jerusalem.
Last Thursday, April 11, a special Israeli military delegation flew to Cairo to evaluate with Egyptian military and intelligence officials their joint steps for thwarting al Qaeda attacks on Israel from Sinai.
But on Wednesday, six days later, those steps proved wholly unequal to preventing al Qaeda from launching Grad missiles at Eilat. (Pop. 50,000, holiday resort and Israel's only Red Sea naval port.)
For Israel, the failure was both strategic and military.
Even though a state of alert had been in force for three weeks, nothing worked: The warning sirens switched on after the rockets exploded and the Grads sailed into Eilat past a silent Iron Dome which failed to detect it.
By good fortune, the Grads exploded in unoccupied buildings under construction in Eilat and caused no casualties. But next time might not be so lucky.
Israel’s southwestern border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip is just one of three fronts on which the IDF is getting ready for war with al Qaeda.
On the northern front, the IDF is preparing to contend with Syrian Islamic militias – first and foremost, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda in Iraq. (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 583 of April 12 first revealed their merger.)
Israeli intelligence on this sector reports that Al Qaeda’s Iraqi terrorists are preparing to cross into Syria and Jordan to reach the two Israeli borders. From there, they plan to launch attacks on targets inside Israel.
So Israel is now rebuilding the old defense lines drawn on the Jordanian border before the two countries signed peace in 1994, after beefing up its defenses and electronic surveillance systems on the borders with Egypt and Syria.
New units for countering Al Qaeda draw on haredi manpower
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources reveal that the Israeli military command last week placed before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the new Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon a five-part plan for recasting the IDF into the shape for contending with the threat of Al Qaeda on three fronts:
1. Although Israel, like many countries including the US, has been trying to reduce its combat units and pare military spending, the IDF is now bidding for a 30 percent increase in fighting manpower.
Spending cuts are ruled out at a time when it is imperative for the armed forces to create new brigades and divisions especially trained and equipped for safeguarding the country’s borders against the menace of al Qaeda.
2. The plan is to string troops and positions along the entire 900 kilometers of Israel’s borders with Egyptian Sinai, Gaza, Golan and Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
This increment of manpower is needed in addition to the fighting personnel which stands prepared for potential wars with Iran and Hizballah.
3. The Israeli general staff is therefore asking the government to rule out proposals presented by various political parties to shorten compulsory military service for men from three to two or two and-a-half years. The IDF is flat against those proposals.
4. The five-point blueprint would draw the extra fighting men for the new units from the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community, taking advantage of their increasing willingness to join up in growing numbers.
More and more military frameworks are being established for haredi soldiers in combat brigades.
This suggests an unforeseen consequence may come about whereby extreme Orthodox Jewish troops face off against Islamist terrorists across Israel's borders.