The latest news to come out of the Sinai is of 2 Egyptians recruited by Iranian agents to bomb an Israeli naval vessel in the Suez Canal. This is merely the latest in a long list of terror attempts and attacks coming from the lawless Sinai. The days when Eilat was to be considered a safe place are well and truly finished, just last week Israeli security services arrested a Hamas operative planning an attack there and suspected of plotting to kidnap a soldier.
In addition at the start of the month the oil pipeline between Egypt and Israel was blown up for the 12th time since Mubarak’s ouster. Unknown ‘militants’ have been blamed for the sabotage. For all of the talk about Iran the real imminent threat to life in Israel is from Hamas in the Gaza Strip and in the Sinai.
Hamas clearly haven’t failed to notice the ineffectiveness of their Grad and Qassam attacks against Israel, particularly in light of the effectiveness of the Iron Dome missile batteries. For those who think that causing terror in the South of Israel and forcing people into bomb shelters is enough of a ‘success’ they should really think again, Hamas measures success only in the form of body bags and kidnappings.
The Israeli strategy for containing Hamas has so far successfully consisted of striking militants from the air and protecting the populace using the Iron Dome. It is not a strategy that can last for much longer in light of the fact that Hamas are clearly shifting their focus from a reliance on rockets to attacks carried out by their fighters. That we have just stopped one attack should serve to focus our attention on the area rather than that there are no more of these reconnaissance efforts.
We saw just such an attack last summer that caused the deaths of several Israeli civilians and hot pursuit by Israeli forces over the border into Egypt. The fallout that came from crossing into Egyptian territory saw the Israeli embassy in Cairo ransacked and very nearly the deaths of all the staff there. That result makes a repeat of an attack from the Sinai by far the most tempting option for Hamas. It should also be noted that the terrorists who perpetrated this attack were wearing explosive belts, thereby combining conventional attacks using small arms with the terror weapon known to all who lived here through the second Intifada and before.
The Israeli assassination of Popular Resistance Committee chief Zuhair Qaisi ensured that there was a protracted barrage of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. This strike wouldn’t have happened if the chief of staff hadn’t felt that it wasn’t absolutely necessary. We have been through this enough times to know that a massive barrage of rockets has become the standard Hamas response to such targeted assassinations. I don’t believe that Qaisi was killed for what he had already done but for what he was planning to do and I am sure that whatever attack he had in mind has been delayed by his death. This won’t last, the Gaza Strip has been effectively locked down for years but now Hamas has a serious way of attacking Israel from a new direction and we should brace ourselves for the inevitable clash in the South, one that will be even more complicated if it drags Egypt into the mix.