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On Sunday night, terrorists at the Egyptian-Israeli border stormed a checkpoint and massacred 16 Egyptian border guards there. They then drove two vehicles toward Israel with the aim of perpetrating a mass-casualty attack against Israeli civilians—thwarted by the combined efforts of the Israeli ground forces and air force.
Yet, according to official statements of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and of Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, the attack was carried out by—Israel.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denounced such claims as “nonsense” and added: “Even the person who says this when he looks at himself in the mirror does not believe the nonsense he is uttering.”
There’s evidence that Palmor is right. Immediately after the attack, Hamas sealed off tunnels from Gaza into Sinai—since it’s suspected that small, non-Hamas, Gaza-based terror groups took part in the attack. Hamas, of course, does not really think Israeli operatives somehow got into Gaza, reached Sinai through the tunnels, and massacred Egyptian policemen before trying to ram one or two suicide vehicles full-speed into Israeli border villages.
And as for Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president, on Tuesday he visited the site of the attack and said that “those who committed this criminal act of terror are enemies of the Egyptian nation and they will pay dearly…. There is no room for appeasing this treason, this aggression and criminality”—without making any mention of Israel.
Early Wednesday morning Egyptian attack helicopters reportedly fired missiles at suspected Islamic terrorists who had attacked three more checkpoints in northern Sinai, 30 miles from the Gaza-Israel border. The missile fire, apparently a spontaneous response to the attacks, seems to have killed at least 20.
Boaz Bismuth, an astute Israeli commentator, asks whether Morsi’s new Islamist government will realize that “Israel and Egypt have a mutual interest in maintaining a peaceful border and protecting it from Islamist terrorist organizations that don’t hesitate to kill their Muslim brethren….”
Morsi, says Bismuth,
needs to understand that a quiet border means minimizing hostile incidents. Minimizing incidents means more tourism, as opposed to the current situation of more pyramids than tourists. Tourists help bring back foreign investors, who in turn help rehabilitate the economy. All of this is crucial to Egypt, which has 85 million mouths to feed.
Yet the question, as Bismuth goes on to acknowledge, is more complicated than that. At present—with Israel’s permission—Egypt has about seven army battalions in Sinai, more than allowed by the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty. So far this force has done next to nothing to clamp down on Sinai terror. Egypt, meanwhile, claims it needs still more troops in Sinai to do the job effectively.
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