Sinai threatens to become an intentional blind spot and site of selective sovereignty within Egypt, perhaps not unlike Pakistan’s frontier provinces. As described below, the area is largely demilitarized according to the Camp David Accords, but this situation may at some point be used to make Israel choose between an area “militarized” by jihadists, or again by Egypt.
Heads, Egypt wins, tails, Israel loses. “Hamas sets up rocket production line in Sinai,” by Yaakov Katz for Jerusalem Post, December 11:
Hamas has established forward bases and rocket production facilities in the Sinai Peninsula in an effort to protect them from Israeli air strikes, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
By establishing the facilities in Egypt, Hamas aims to protect its assets since it believes Israel will not strike targets inside Egypt due to the affect it would have on bilateral relations.
Any attempt to resist or pre-empt attacks can be spun as an act of war on Egypt.
Israel has called on Cairo to increase its efforts to restore order in Sinai and to prevent attacks, but the Egyptian military has held back from dismantling the Hamas infrastructure in the peninsula.
More than a dozen Egyptian army battalions allowed into Sinai with Israel’s permission (required because of limits placed on Egyptian forces there under the peace treaty) are still operating there, although with limited success in stopping terrorist activity and arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip.
Recent arms smuggled into Gaza have included advanced weaponry stolen from Libyan military storehouses such as Russian- made shoulder-to-air missiles.
Israel’s primary concern with Sinai is that it is being used by Palestinians to launch attacks into Israel while taking advantage of the open southern border.
The IDF has beefed up its forces along the border and recently established a new regional brigade that is responsible for defending Eilat and nearby areas.
On Thursday, the IDF bombed a car traveling in northern Gaza and killed a senior Aksa Martyrs Brigades operative who the army said was plotting an attack.
The terrorists were supposed to cross from Gaza into Sinai and then into Israel, similar to the attack that took place in August when eight Israelis were killed.
The bombing of the car is part of an IDF understanding that since it cannot operate in Egypt it needs to stop such attacks while they are still in the planning stages in the Gaza Strip.
While Hamas is believed to be involved in planning some of the attacks that have triggered Israel’s high alert along the border with Egypt, it is not participating in firing rockets at Israeli communities. That is being done by smaller groups that do not heed Hamas”s authority.