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Monday, August 22, 2011

Report: Egypt identified three of the Eilat terrorists

From Al Masry al Youm:
Egyptian authorities have identified three of the people responsible for carrying out a terrorist attack in Israel, just north of Eilat, on Thursday, in which seven Israelis were killed, according to an Egyptian security source.

The same source added that one of the men identified is a leader of terrorist cells in Sinai, while another is a fugitive who owns an ammunition factory.
It is unclear whether "identified" means "caught."

Also:
The source also gave details of an attack by Israeli security forces that left three Egyptians dead on Thursday. One army officer and two police officers were killed when an Israeli helicopter crossed the Egyptian border at mark no. 79, fired two missiles and then hovered over the Egyptian checkpoint, firing its machine guns, said the source.
I've seen reports saying that the IDF accidentally killed between 3 and 5 Egyptians.

I have not seen their names. I have not seen any news about their funerals.

I have also not seen the Egyptian press mention any soldier being killed by the terrorists themselves, including by suicide belts, something the Israeli media reported on.

Al Masry al Youm also has an interesting detailed report on the situation in the Sinai:
Ayoub and his followers believe that the security apparatus unwittingly created the threat of Islamists in Sinai, and that it was the same Islamists who suffered under these unlawful and harsh detentions who attacked the police station on 29 July.

While his Salafi group is peaceful, Ayoub says there are others that believe in violence, such as Al-Takfeer wal-Hijra.

When asked about their level of armament, he says, “They are armed, like everywhere else in Egypt, especially after the revolution started.” Ayoub told the media over a week ago that his group was ready to arm 6000 people in Sinai to protect the territory. Many in Sinai view themselves as the guardians of Egypt’s borders from potential Israeli threats.

Khaled Saad, a businessman and secular political activist in Arish, may not have much sympathy for the militant Islamists, but he still doubts that they are tightly organized groups with deep-rooted ideologies. The level of their threat, he says, is somewhat exaggerated.

“There has been a lot of anger at the security practices of the toppled regime, so it became easy for some sheikhs to gather outlaws and smugglers around them so that they become a militia,” Saad says, echoing Ayoub in suggesting that the recent attacks on state institutions are the continuation of a battle that began with the oppression of locals by Mubrak’s security apparatus.

Infiltrations from the Gaza Strip have also raised concerns about a rising Islamist insurgency in Sinai. Palestinian factions competing with Hamas’ control of Gaza are chased out and driven into Sinai by way of tunnels that bypass the tightly controlled border.

“Both Hamas and the military intelligence here in Arish have full information about all groups infiltrating into Egypt from Gaza. No one can expand and form a whole armed movement here, because they are well-tracked,” says a Palestinian living in Arish who requested anonymity.

..Egyptian tanks and armored personnel carriers are currently present at military checkpoints between Arish, Rafah, and the nearby town of Sheikh Zowayed.

The military show of force is part of the Egyptian armed forces’ “Operation Eagle,” a troop mobilization that began on 12 August. The deployment, which is ostensibly in response to terrorism threats, needed to be authorized by Israel, as it technically breaches the peace accords, according to reports in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The mobilization came a week after a statement from a group advocating for an Islamic emirate in the peninsula and calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula went viral in the Egyptian media. In response, the military said it would “purge” the peninsula. Many people in Sinai voiced their support for the operation, but others raised concerns.

Before the attacks in Israel on 18 August, Egyptian security forces were quick to call the Sinai operation a success. Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin said at a press conference last week that the campaign has so far managed to arrest members of Al-Takfeer wal-Hijra and collect arms and illegally-acquired military uniforms. The assailants in the 18 August attack in Israel were reportedly wearing Egyptian army uniforms.

Security sources have also told local media that Palestinian members of the militant group Islamic Jihad were among those were arrested, some of whom were previously detained in Egyptian prisons and fled during the chaos of last winter’s uprising.

Local media have also reported on coordination between Hamas and the Egyptian military to monitor the movement of potential infiltrators to Sinai from Gaza through the tunnels, particularly from the Army of Islam and a little-known group Jaljalat. Both claim ties to Al-Qaeda.

Some experts on Islamist movements, such as Khaled al-Berry, suggest that the Army of Islam has loose ties to the Syrian regime, which is currently facing massive protests calling for its downfall.

Berry, who classifies groups like the Army of Islam as not strictly ideologically-motivated and easily employed by political players, warns of possible chaos in Sinai being sponsored by an embattled Syrian regime trying to prove its strategic importance to the region.

But in the end, it appears that the threat came from none of those groups. The attack on southern Israel on Thursday that killed eight people was, according to Israel, perpetrated by insurgents from Palestinian Resistance Committees based in Gaza who infiltrated Sinai through tunnels.

YNet  has a report about the Sinai situation as well, but it does not seem to be nearly as in depth as this one.

See also the previous post by Suzanne.

(h/t Yoel)