Egypt has deployed helicopter gunships to the Sinai peninsula to hunt for the perpetrators of Sunday night’s massacre at a checkpoint along the border with Israel. Egyptian military officials, declaring the terrorists “infidels”, were following up on a pledge made earlier on Monday to crack down on the lawlessness that has come to define the Sinai in the months since the revolution that toppled the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.
On Sunday night, Global Jihad terrorists in the Sinai region attacked an Egyptian military post near Rafah, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers and taking over two armored personnel carriers (APC). They then commandeered the APC’s to smash through Israel’s border with Gaza, with one jeep exploding as it rammed through the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Israel, while the other made it through. The attack was quickly spotted by the IDF and hit with an airstrike, killing at least eight terrorists.
The Egyptian military released a statement on its Facebook page in Monday, saying that though it had demonstrated restraint over matters in the Sinai,”there is a red line and passing it is not acceptable. Egyptians will not have to wait long to see a reaction to this event.”
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who assumed office a little over a month ago, directed the military to take “complete control” of the Sinai and said that the perpetrators behind the “cowardly” assault would “pay a high price, as would those who cooperate with them,” according to the the state-run Middle East News Agency.
Hamas, which is an ideological adherent of the Muslim Brotherhood and is seeking to forge close ties with Mursi’s government, immediately condemned the killings and reportedly sealed the smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt. Taher Al-Nono, spokesman for the Hamas regime in Gaza, said that Hamas was cooperating with Egyptian authorities to uncover the identity of those behind the massacre, but insisted that “no Palestinian could take part in such an ugly crime and in the killing of our beloved Egyptian army men in such a horrible manner.”
On a tour of the Israeli side of Kerem Shalom Crossing on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – accompanied by Defense Minister Ehud Barak – said: “I would like to praise the IDF and ISA [Israel Security Agency] for foiling a very major terrorist attack. You deployed and acted properly…I think that it is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in maintaining a quiet border.
“As has been made clear on numerous occasions, when it comes to the security of the citizens of Israel, the State of Israel must and can rely only on itself,” Netanyahu continued. “Nobody can fulfill this role other than the IDF and the security services of the State of Israel, and this is how we will continue to act.”
Barak, speaking after the Prime Minister, said that “the incident that could have transpired with all the explosive material that was brought in the small truck that exploded at the start, as well as the suicide bomber belts on the six to eight terrorists who were in the armored vehicle… there is no doubt that if they had entered a town here or an army bases by surprise, they could have caused very serious damage. Once again it was proven here how acute intelligence, a quick response, and operational capabilities, can make all the difference.
In a pointed criticism of Egypt’s conduct in the Sinai, he added: “I hope that this will be a wakeup call for Egypt regarding the necessity to be sharp and efficient on their side.”