New York, Aug. 18 – The coordinated attacks in southern Israel today that killed and injured scores of people including children raises crucial questions about whether Egypt can be trusted to maintain security across the border and counter a deadly Islamist terrorist threat to Israel.
The terrorists who attacked two buses and engaged in running gun battles with Israeli forces are believed to have infiltrated from Sinai. It seems likely they originated from the Gaza Strip which is run by Iran-backed Hamas and now has a porous border with Egypt, with terrorists freely crossing in either direction.
These were the first such attacks in years and the first since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown earlier this year.
Israel has been at peace with Egypt since 1979 but Cairo’s new rulers seem much less committed to maintaining security in the Sinai. It is no longer clear whether the Egyptian authorities have the ability or the will to combat Islamic terrorist groups bent on attacking Israel.
Some Israeli analysts said the attacks showed the Egyptian military had lost its grip on the region and Israel would have to grapple with a new security reality across a border that has previously been tranquil.
At the same time this was happening, two more military-grade Grad missiles were fired from Gaza at Israeli cities in the south – Beersheba and Kiryat Gat. No injuries were reported.
In recent months, Egypt has opened its border with Gaza and seems to be making little effort to prevent the smuggling of advanced weapons components to the Iran-based terrorists who rule the Palestinian territory. Hamas is committed to destroying Israel and its charter calls on adherents to kill Jews whenever and wherever possible.
Hamas leaders visited Cairo this week asking to move their headquarters to the Egyptian capital from Damascus. Since the fall of Mubarak, terrorists have repeatedly attacked the pipeline carrying natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan, temporarily disrupting supplies.
Israel has allowed Egypt to dispatch much larger Egyptian forces there than the Camp David Accords allowed for, including the entry of thousands of Egyptian soldiers and tanks in the El Arish region and northern Sinai – but this proved insufficient to prevent Thursday’s tragic attacks.