No Egyptian crackdown on Sinai terrorists. Jihad keeps Israel in suspense
The Cairo media's highly colored accounts Monday, Aug. 30 of 1,500 Egyptian commando and tank supposedly raiding Jihad Islami and al Qaeda cells in Sinai are pure fiction, debkafile's military sources confirm. Israeli forces along the Gazan and Egyptian borders down to Eilat have been forced to stand for a week at the highest level of preparedness since receiving word that a large group of terrorists had left the Gaza Strip for Sinai on Aug. 24 bent on another attack on southern Israel. The Egyptian army, for its part, is sitting on is hands as the jihadists take up assault positions on its side of the Sinai border.
The group set out from Gaza the day after the head of the Jihad Islami missile and logistics chief Ismail al-Asmar died in a targeted Israeli air strike on the car he was travelling in Rafah.
Israelwent on high terror alert on Aug. 25. Its leaders have repeatedly warned since then that Israel is fully prepared to respond swiftly if attacked.
Tuesday night, the IDF's Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said: “Hamas and the other terrorist organizationsin Gaza had better realize that if they harm Israeli citizens we shall hit them hard. Testing our strength would be a mistake."
Tuesday, Home Front Minister Mattan Vilnai cited information that the at least 10 terrorists were in Sinai getting set to strike southern Israel.
Our sources report he was scolded by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for letting it be known that the coming Palestinian raid was liable to be bigger than the coordinated highway attacks just north of Eilat of the Aug. 18, in which gunmen shot eight people dead. Limited Israeli reprisal then against Gazan terrorist targets brought forth a 150-missile barrage from Gaza against locations within its constantly expanding range.
For the loss of its logistics chief, the group decided it was not satisfied with heavy missile assaults and plotted a "quality operation" from Sinai.
debkafile's intelligence and counter-terror sources report that the absence of Egyptian preventatives and Israel's passivity in the face of an assault known to be approaching afford the Palestinian terrorist group, which is sponsored and armed by Iran, extra leverage and strategic leeway in its contest with Israel.
Sunday, Aug. 21, after accepting an Egyptian-brokered truce for halting the missile blitz from Gaza, Netanyahu commented that Israel had gained the upper hand: The Palestinians had landed themselves with a new negative equation: Their attacks from Sinai would henceforth incur retaliation in Gaza.
Jihad Islami is now turning this equation on its head by demonstrating that Israeli attacks on Palestinian terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip bring forth Palestinian reprisals from Sinai.
They calculate correctly as it turned out this week that the Egyptian border offers them no obstacle to cross-border terror, whereas Israeli counteraction is stopped short.
Held back from its famous preemptive tactics by Israel's leaders out of fear of further strains on relations with the military rulers in Cairo, the Israeli army's deterrent strength is progressively sapped and the pro-Iranian Palestinian terrorists are getting the last laugh even before they strike.
They have wound up holding the initiative in the next round. It is up to them to decide for how much longer – days or weeks – reinforced Israeli units must stay on maximum preparedness and Israel's main routes to the south, Highways 10 and 12, stay closed to civilian traffic. They can keep Israel on tenterhooks as long as they like before deciding to press the trigger.