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Lethal Sinai attack is connected to the Gaza blockade

The lethal attack on an Egyptian military outpost, in an attempted incursion into Israel, is another reminder of the terrorist infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula. This infrastructure was built in part on the basis of the Gaza-Egypt-Israel smuggling industry, which is fueled by the massive restrictions on movement and trade imposed on the Strip by Israel and Egypt.

Some of the weapons carried by militants in infiltration attempt, August 6 2012 (photo: IDF Spokesperson)

On Sunday evening, terrorists attacked an Egyptian military outpost in the Sinai Peninsula, near the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings, connecting Egypt with the Gaza Strip and Israel respectively. Fifteen Egyptian soldiers were killed in the attack, in which assailants seized two armored vehicles and attempted to infiltrate Israel. One of the vehicles was destroyed by a detonation of the explosives loaded on board; and the other was destroyed by the Israel Air Force, preventing the planned incursion. The attack was probably carried out by a global Jihad group, and was denounced both by the Egyptian government and by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

This attack is yet another reminder of the dangerous situation which has evolved in the Sinai Peninsula. Conquered by Israel in the 1956 and 1967 wars, and returned both times (in 1957 and following the Camp David peace accord with Egypt in 1979). The peninsula is a desert, three times larger than all of Israel, inhabited by about half a million people, many of them the traditionally pastoral Bedouin. In recent times, it has turned into a popular tourist destination, including for some Israelis.

However, over the last decade, it has also increasingly become a hotbed of terrorist activity. This development has to do with the area’s basic features (poor, largely empty, hard to navigate, international tourists as lucrative targets). But the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip is likely to have been a major trigger for the last decade’s deterioration.

The Strip, which borders Sinai, is much smaller, more isolated, and holds less sentimental attachment for Jewish Israelis than the West Bank. As a result, it has always been at the forefront of Israeli efforts to “separate” themselves from the Palestinians. Gaza was one of the first places where Palestinian population centers were evacuated by the IDF under the Oslo Accords, in 1994. It was fenced by Israel long before the West Bank wall, and the final permanent Israeli land presence in the Strip ended when its settlements were evacuated from Gaza under the 2005 disengagement plan. This led to a further tightening of the closure on Gaza – the massive restrictions imposed by Israel on land, air and sea movement of people and goods to and from the strip. The situation worsened further in 2007, when Hamas took over the strip, and the Egyptian government joined the blockade, largely shutting down the Egypt-Gaza border (the 2009 Israel-Gaza War certainly did not help, although the blockade was slightly loosened following the Gaza flotilla and the political upheaval in Egypt).

The distress created by these restrictions has led to the rise of an immense smuggling industry, mainly with the Sinai Peninsula, heavily reliant on its Bedouin population (and some of their fellows in the Israeli Negev, which border both Egypt and Gaza). This industry specializes in moving goods through tunnels and gaps in the fence, not just between Gaza and Egypt, but in the entire Gaza-Egypt-Israel border triangle. Although this mainly involves civilian goods, plenty of weapons flow through this trade, which has also been boosted by drug and human trafficking (of migrants and refugees) along the Israel-Egypt border.

Sinai, increasingly flooded by criminal activity and weapons, combined with the basic features mentioned above, has become a magnet for terrorist organizations, both Palestinian and those affiliated with global jihad. Major attacks on the peninsula occurred in 2004 (37 killed), 2005 (88 killed) and 2006 (23 killed) and another one was foiled by Egyptian security in 2009: all mainly targeting tourists, many of them Israeli. Last year, seven Israelis were killed in the southern city of Eilat, in a cross-border attack emanating from Sinai. In the last two years, there have also been a string of 15 attacks on the pipeline carrying natural gas from Egypt to Israel.

Israeli is attempting to build yet another fence, this time along the Israeli-Egyptian border (joining those in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon; and soon to be joined by an Israel-Jordan fence). But as previous experience – and the pipeline itself – indicate, it is impossible for Israel to solve problems with other people in the region by sealing itself off from them. This latest attack is also another reminder of the dangerous regional spillover effects from policies on the Palestinian issue in general, and Gaza in particular.

Read also:
The IDF quietly abandons its spin on Eilat attack

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    1. Joel

      ” The attack was probably carried out by a global Jihad group, and was denounced both by the Egyptian government and by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.”

      We don’t know who, much less why,carried out the attack, yet you blame the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Pretty sad.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Roi Maor

      Joel – that was not my argument. I did not claim that the identity (who) or motivation (why) of the attackers had anything to do with the Gaza blockade. I specifically said that the blockade has caused criminal activity in Sinai to surge, and this criminal infrastructure is useful for the purposes of these attacks.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jehudah

      Does the author have access to information that the rest of humanity doesn’t have? And, since the rest of humanity, and especially the authorities in Egypt, Gaza as well as Israel are still trying to put the pieces together and don’t have a full picture, how is it that the author can already solve this puzzle…, or can he…?? I strongly doubt it. But, of course, it is an event that, again, can be blamed once again, directly or indirectly on the nation-state of the Jewish people… It is only a matter of time before the author or like minded person will accuse Israel of the inability of humanity to grow fruit trees in Antarctica and will blame the Jews for trying to protect Israel’s farmers by preventing the ability of people to develop agriculture in the south pole…

      Reply to Comment
    4. Joel

      The blockade leads to smuggling–>Smuggling leads to crime–>Crime leads to a terror attack–>Blame Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Lusia

      That’s why the Gaza should NEVER have been given back! Israel should get it back again and retain it… will the rest of the “world” like it and will they condemn it? No and yes, but Israel will ALWAYS be damned if they do and damned if they don’t! So, whether people like it or not, ALL the territory God gave to Israel IS Israel’s and should not be negotiated with just to maintian the “peace” and try to please the “wold”. It is my view that there will not be peace in that land until Yeshua comes back!

      Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      Some problems can’t be solved, they can only be managed…

      Reply to Comment
    7. aristeides

      Lusia – God gave Gaza to Egypt.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Jack

      Since the blockade is not only illegal but causing smuggling why wouldnt the occupier be blamed?
      Also it was denounced by Gaza and this was carried out outside of Gaza so why keep talking about Gaza? It happend on Egyptian soil.

      Reply to Comment
    9. ekim

      I wish the author would not use the word ‘terrorist’ in this way. I don’t know about everyone else, but I view terror attacks as being directed at civilians, purposefully. The Egyptian soldiers attacked in this case are trained and armed to deploy violence in the name of the Egyptian state. Attacking them is very different from attacking a civilian home or gathering.

      Before you rush to judgment, just because I don’t think this is ‘terrorism’ doesn’t mean I think it’s okay, or that I encourage it. There are obviously many crimes that aren’t terrorism, and this is one.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Roi Maor

      Ekim – I agree with your distinction about terrorism. After re-reading the article, I see that I did call the attackers “terrorists” in the first paragraph. I don’t think the usage in this case is misleading or problematic, and any other term would have been confusing or inelegant.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Vadim

      Please note that it is not food or toys smuggling that flourishes in Sinai. It’s weapons.

      This means the blockade is effective (to a measure) and very justified (unless you claim that Arabs have a right to kill Jews and we deprive them of their rights)

      Reply to Comment
    12. How do we know for sure that the Sinai attack is connected to the Gaza blockade and not a false flag perpetrated by Isreal’s Shin Bet as they have done countless times before? When there’s strife, instability, violence and chaos only Isreal benefits.

      Reply to Comment
    13. @ Jehudah

      “Does the author have access to information that the rest of humanity doesn’t have?”

      Isn’t that exactly what Isreal does? No matter what happens, they immediately accuse either the Palestinians or Iran or both without having any evidence of anything but shoot your mouth and innocents first and pretend to ask questions later. The world is only following Isreal’s example. You can’t expect others not to do what you yourselves engage in so freely and wantonly.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Prometheus

      “How do we know for sure that the Sinai attack is connected to the Gaza blockade and not a false flag perpetrated by Isreal’s Shin Bet…”
      Who are the “we” you are referring to? YOU know nothing about the situation, otherwise you wouldn’t utter such nonsense.
      1 – This attack has nothing to do with the blockade. Just 10 days ago – http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/haniyeh-morsy-agreed-increase-passengers-through-rafah
      Egypt has opened the Rafiah crossing at the end of the May, not completely but that certainly was only the question of time – Hamas is strongly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and Mursi has not once promised that the blockade must be lifted.
      Besides that Egypt has always allowed cargo flow into Gaza – through the underground tunnels of course, claiming that it’s not able to control them in response to Israel’s complains.
      2 – Israel has warned on possible attacks just couple weeks ago, but Egyptians were totally relaxed – they simply could not believe that such an attack against the army could take place. Well, welcome to the real world.
      3 – Palestinians (even Hamas has acknowledged that) have slaughtered 16 unprepared soldiers who were about to eat and drink after day’s feast.
      They efficiently bit the only hand which was feeding them. But why? I’m not too fond of Egyptians in general and Egyptian army in particular, however I find it hard to believe that all 17 of them have done enough bad to be murdered like that.
      Now, to claim that it was a false flag attack by Shin Bet is plain stupid. Risk is immense, the price of failure is totally unaffordable and the benefits are too vague. Netaniyahu would never allow to do anything like that.
      Now, it’s the most interesting part. They actually thought that no one on the Israeli side is going to hear the gunfight and that they are gonna take the stupid Jews by the surprise.
      What’s interesting is who actually have sent them. The group was large – http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/update-scaf-says-35-assailants-involved-border-killings
      It means that at least 100 people knew about that, probably much more. It means that Hamas certainly knew, but took no action… or they thought that the attack would be against Israel and the Egyptians won’t be hurt… Yeah, probably.

      Reply to Comment
    15. aristeides

      Vadim – yes, Arabs have the right to kill Jews who are trying to kill them and making war on them. It’s called Self-Defense. Arabs have the right of self-defense, they have the right to acquire weapons of self-defense, and in the case of the residents of Gaza, they have the right to use those weapons against the Jews blockading their territory and killing them.

      Reply to Comment
    16. BOOZ

      Aristeides :

      Let me ask you a candid question :

      Suppose I would be walking in a shopping mall in Tel Aviv or Haïfa, and I realize that the person standing in front of me carries an explosive belt. Would I become a legitimate target if I report the guy to the cops ?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Joel


      “Since the blockade is not only illegal but causing smuggling why wouldnt the occupier be blamed?”

      Maybe because Israel no longer occupies Gaza?

      “Also it was denounced by Gaza and this was carried out outside of Gaza so why keep talking about Gaza?”

      Dunno. Ask Roi. It’s his article.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Joel


      Of course they were terrorists. They meant to drive the stolen, explosives laden armored personnel carrier into the nearby Jewish settlement and detonate it.

      C’mon guys. Get with it.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Joel


      As per the Palmer Report,the blockade is legal.

      Reply to Comment
    20. aristeides

      When the fox investigates the raid on the chicken coop, of course he absolves himself. But no one believes him. No one believes Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    21. aristeides

      Booz – why do you ask a question so far remote from the situation at hand? Suppose instead that you are driving in an APC along the border of Gaza, ready to shoot at any Arab who appears in your gunsights. Are you a legitimate target? Damn right you are.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Vadim

      I’m sure that once the tunnels are in place – it becomes a business like any other and smuggling of cars and any other goods is possible.
      The question is – would they still be there if there were NO weapons to smuggle. I still claim that weapons is the main reason the tunnels exist.

      I didn’t say it was ONLY weapons. I said weapons smuggling flourishes. In any other case you would have written that passing a giraffe through a tunnel is cruel to the giraffe I couldn’t have agreed more. But these are Arabs we are talking about, anything they do is OK as long as it’s against Israel or make Israel look bad.

      I think you should double check your definition of self defense. Sniping at civilians is not self defense, purposefully shooting rockets at civilians is not self defense and even blowing up Jews in a bus is not self defense.

      Self defense is killing the above-mentioned “freedom fighters” before they exercise what you claim is their right of “self defense”.

      How has their self defense work so far? Would Israel kill all of them had they had no weapons? Some of them? More of them? Or (most probably) – none of them?

      They don’t have the right to kill Jews as much as we don’t have a right to kill Arabs. Difference is – we kill because we are forced to, they kill because it’s a tool in a political struggle (and because they are indoctrinated to hate Jews).

      One last question – if they have the right to kill Jews because they blockade them, didn’t Israel have the right to attack Egypt in 67 when Egypt closed the Tiran straits to Israeli ships? Will you be consistent enough to admit Israel wasn’t the aggressor in 67?

      Reply to Comment
    23. Jack

      Yes Israel occupy and have a blockade on Gaza. This is internationally recognized.
      The Palmer report didnt say it was lawful, more concretly it lacked authority to decide on that subject.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Jack

      Of course.

      Reply to Comment
    25. BOOZ

      Aristeides :

      When you stop making bla

      Reply to Comment
    26. BOOZ

      blanket sta

      Reply to Comment
    27. BOOZ

      …tements like this one :
      they have the right to use those weapons against the Jews blockading their territory and killing them

      I may stop asking blankety questions.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Vadim


      Of course what? Weapons are the main reason or there would have still been tunnels without weapons smuggled through them?

      Reply to Comment
    29. Jack

      Of course (would the tunnels be there regardless of weapons).

      Reply to Comment
    30. ekim

      well that’s interesting- you agree with my definition of terrorism but still don’t see why using it in this case is problematic?

      “I don’t think the usage in this case is misleading or problematic, and any other term would have been confusing or inelegant.”

      hmmm, is “attackers” misleading or inelegant? I mean that’s the other word you used in your response to me, and I wasn’t misled. As for “inelegant” well, I don’t think the word “terrorist” is exactly elegant or somehow the cogent choice of words. Should we make our writing more interesting at the expense of impartiality, or even the truth?

      If they attack civilians knowingly for a political or religious purpose they’re terrorists. These men are just criminals.

      Honestly, in my opinion the number of times the word ‘terrorism’ is used incorrectly far outnumbers the times it is used correctly. In fact, it is coming to be nothing- the word’s boundaries have been so constantly violated that its meaning can no longer clearly be discerned. It has become a trite insult, one thrown at someone’s ideological enemies, nothing more.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Prometheus

      “No one believes Israel.”
      No, not like that….
      What you actually are saying is more like:
      “There is quiet a lot of diluted idiots who still have to remain in their dreams because otherwise they’ll have to put the end to their useless lives”

      Reply to Comment
    32. Jack

      You just admitted that you havent read the report.

      From page 7 of the report one read:

      “The Panel is not a court. It was not asked to make
      determinations of the legal issues or to adjudicate on liability.”

      Simply the blockade is not lawful.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Prometheus

      There is no court decision stating that the blockade is against the law.
      Simply the blockade is legal.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Jack

      Desperate attempt.
      Apparently you lack knowledge too.
      Its like as stupid as saying there is no judge that you are forbidden to run over 2 people every day.

      Collective punishment is illegal under Geneva Conventions.
      Deliberately causing harm to civilians is not lawful according to humantarian law.
      Uphelding a blockade that causing harm to civilians is not lawful.

      You could also check what non government organizations say about it.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Jack

      *”no judge that SAY”

      Reply to Comment
    36. aristeides

      I see that Booz merely wants to divert discussion from the issue at hand.

      Vadim at least addresses the issue, but from the false perspective that holds Israel blameless. Whenever anyone claims they are “forced” to do wrong, this is a sign that they are arguing in bad faith.

      Israel is constantly attacking and killing Gazans for reasons entirely political. Gazans are fighting for liberation from an occupying regime. This is a right granted by international law.

      Israel is constantly importing weapons. Suppose that the Chinese deployed warships off the coast of Israel and blockaded the country, refusing to let ships land because they might be carrying weapons, shooting down all aircraft because they might have weapons, running over surfers and windsailors because they might be smuggling weapons. I suspect you would be outraged that China was keeping from Israel the weapons to defend itself.

      In fact, similar conditions existed before 1948, when the British attempted to keep weapons out of Palestine. The Palestinian Jews smuggled them in and used them in acts of terrorism. Now Israel commemorates these smugglers and terrorists as heroes of the state’s founding. Hypocrisy much?

      Reply to Comment
    37. aristeides

      And Vadim – yes, Israel was the aggressor in 1967. All you have to do is look at a map to see the difference between Egypt’s closing the Straits of Tiran, *entirely in Egyptian waters*, and Egypt deploying gunships in the Med, off the coast of Haifa.

      Reply to Comment
    38. shaun

      Aristeides: look up the term Casus belli

      ps. Google and Wikipedia are not synonyms for research.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Prometheus

      “Gazans are fighting for liberation from an occupying regime. This is a right granted by international law.”
      Yep. Exactly as there is a law granted to an occupying regime to deal with all kinds of “freedom fighters”.

      Reply to Comment
    40. aristeides

      Shaun – go look up the term “sucking eggs”

      Reply to Comment
    41. aristeides

      As usual, this discussion has been diverted into pronouncements of stale hasbara and shopworn topics. Everyone with a clear mind accepts the right of Gaza to defend itself against the Israeli blockade.

      The real question raised by this article is important, and it’s a shame no one is addressing it – do Gazans have the right to attack Egypt for its part in the blockade?

      It was widely assumed, in Gaza and in Egypt, that the change in the Egyptian government this year would result in an altered policy towards Gaza. But the change might not be what people expected. Reports say that Egypt may be seriously cracking down on the smuggling tunnels, as well as activity in the Sinai.

      Reply to Comment
    42. Prometheus

      “do Gazans have the right to attack Egypt for its part in the blockade?”
      Of course they do. It’s a basic human right. However it’s worth noticing that Egypt, being a sovereign state, has a right to react to these attacks as it pleases.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Jack

      Interesting that you think palestinians have the right to attack Egypt for the blockade, do you recognize that palestinians have the right to attack Israel too concering this subject?
      Also you seems to missunderstand some things, if a man tries to rob a bank, does he have the right to use his gun to defend himself when another cashier trying to push him to the floor?

      Reply to Comment
    44. Prometheus

      Everyone has a right to use a gun. To shoot at animals or people, for fun or profit.
      At the same token everyone has a right not to be shot at or have ones animals shot at, neither for fun, nor for profit.
      In you example in US the robber who shot and killed cashier who assaulted him would be charged with manslaughter, but not murder. Basically the law partially accepts the right of the robber to defend himself – after all he came for the money, not to kill.
      Of course Palestinians have right to attack Israel. Nobody ever actually said that Palestinians have no such right.

      Reply to Comment
    45. Prometheus

      In your robbery example, btw, if cashier shoots and kills the robber he would be charged with manslaughter as well, or even murder – if robber had a toy gun.

      Reply to Comment
    46. Jack

      You seems to missunderstand even more.
      The robber or any other criminal have of course no right to defend his act and call it “self defense”.

      Annexation is illegal and give the annexing regime no right to defend herself if the occupied/annexed people rise up since the act is illegal from the beginning.

      Reply to Comment
    47. Prometheus

      “The robber or any other criminal have of course no right to defend his act and call it “self defense”.”
      That is truth only in your self-righteous cocoon.
      Annexation is illegal and give the annexing regime no right to defend herself if the occupied/annexed people rise up since the act is illegal from the beginning.”
      Answer one question – does a legal regime has a right to defend herself?

      Reply to Comment
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