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The Meaning of the Egypt-Israel Cross-Border Attack

Remnants of the foiled Sinai border terror attack

Photo Credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90

http://rubinreports.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/the-meaning-of-egypt-israel-cross.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+Rubinreports+(RubinReports) A 35-man seemingly bedouin terrorist team invaded an Egyptian army base in eastern Sinai, stole a truck and armored personnel carrier, and tried to crash the Israel border gate. They killed about 16 Egyptian soldiers but those who tried to cross the border–at least five–were quickly wiped out by Israeli forces.

You will be reading a lot of accounts of this event mostly saying the same things. But what’s really important?

–The incompetence of the Egyptian military. That a whole platoon size unit of terrorists–one of the largest such forces every assembled for such an attack–could plan, organize, and come together without warning for the Egyptian army speaks poorly for its intelligence capability. That they could break into a base doesn’t bode well for the Egyptian military’s competence. Presumably one reason why they wanted Egyptian vehicles–as happened with uniforms on a previous occasion–is to make Israeli soldiers hesitate to shoot or to end up getting Israelis to mistakenly kill Egyptians and set off a wider conflict.

–The attack was probably carried out by an al-Qaida type group allied with counterparts in the Gaza Strip. These organizations don’t care about the well-being of Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. By hitting Israel they seek to promote their image to carry out their goals. Yet the more they make enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood branches the more incentive those forces have to suppress them.

–To what extent, however, do these groups have backing from Egyptian Salafist forces or the Palestinian equivalent, Islamic Jihad? Such an alliance could greatly raise the level of violence and internal conflict, especially within Egypt. Is there a chance for the Brotherhood and Salafists to work together or will they clash?

–The Brotherhood immediately blamed Israel for engineering the attack. This means something quite different when the Brotherhood was just an opposition group in Egypt. It is now the government. Consider what this means: the organization governing Egypt has accused Israel of launching an attack on Egyptian soil and killing a lot of Egyptian soldiers. Isn’t that a just cause for war? That’s not going to happen but situations like this will arise repeatedly in future and one day can lead to war.

–The Brotherhood will not even condemn al-Qaida. For example, the new government could have taken a different approach: These extremists are enemies of the Egyptian people because they endanger the state’s stability and economic success. It won’t even do that. So no matter how many cross-border attacks are staged from Egypt and Israel, Egypt will just deny responsibility and blame Israel. What likelihood is there that they will try to vigorously block them?

–Israel has now gotten to the point where it can protect itself from cross-border attacks. We are dealing here with open country where it is hard to sneak up on the border and well-distributed Israeli defense forces that can get to any point on the frontier very quickly.

So in strategic terms, such attacks are not a huge threat but in geopolitical terms the danger is rising steadily.

The U.S. government response is to offer to help train and assist Egypt’s army and government. But the government is not part of the solution, rather it is part of the problem.

About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.


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2 Responses to “The Meaning of the Egypt-Israel Cross-Border Attack”

  1. Liad Bar-el says:

    I understand your point Barry and what I’m saying is not in contradiction to it but to add to it. The question has to be asked, “Where were the Bedouin terrorists going after they broke through the Israeli border and what were they planning to do?” Debka has answered this question by stating that “the Salafi gunmen who broke through to the Israeli side of the Sinai border Sunday in an armored truck packed with half a ton of explosives were not after an Israeli civilian location but the base of the IDF’s Bedouin Reconnaissance battalion nearby. They planned to repeat there the massacre they had just perpetrated at the Egyptian Mansoura base on the other side of the border.
    Had they succeeded, the Salafist terrorists would have accomplished three strategic feats:
    1. The first simultaneous terrorist attack on two armies. It would have toppled the Egyptian and Israeli security deployments along their common border in Sinai;.
    2. A mortal blow to the Bedouin unit, which is an important buttress of Israel’s combat array around the Gaza Strip;.
    3. Bedouin would have triumphed against Bedouin, so sparking a vendetta between the tribes of Sinai and the Israel Negev.”.

  2. David Most says:

    But Morsi has not blamed Israel. That came from a loose MB cannon. Morsi has instead fired the Egyptian commander responsible for his unit's lousy performance. Morsi should sub-contract his intelligence work to Israel and avoid even more embarrassment in the future!

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