Sinai Terror Attacks Portend Gold Mine for Israeli Military-Intelligence Services, IDF Infringes Egyptian Sovereignty to Intercept Foreign Migrants
While many have reported on the recent terror attacks on the Sinai border between Egypt and Israel, few have reported on two aspects of the fallout of this Islamist campaign. Until last summer, when a similar group of local Sinai Bedouin crossed the border and attacked Eilat, few in the Israeli intelligence apparatus had Sinai on their radar. But now it is there with a vengeance. With crisis comes opportunity for bold, ambitious military-intelligence operatives.
The question is who will take responsibility for combatting the terror threat represented by Sinai Islamist militants. Traditionally, the Shin Bet would take primary control of such matters. But given that the terror attacks are trans-national, the army can make an argument that it should be responsible. This is not a matter of dry jurisdictional bureaucratic matters. There’s gold in them thar hills. In 2007, just after George Bush allocated $400-million for covert ops to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, Ehud Olmert added $500-million to the Mossad’s operating budget. Though I don’t know how government-to-government transfers operate, it wouldn’t shock me at all to discover that a substantial portion of the Bush funding ended up financing not just the Mossad in general, but its terror campaign against Iran including attacks against its nuclear scientists and cyber-attacks against its nuclear plants.
So you see, any agency which wins the battle to take over the Sinai counter-terror beat stands to reap a huge budgetary windfall.
There is another major problem with policing the Sinai. Egypt should be responsible. But it’s out-of-date peace treaty with Israel only allows it to maintain a single brigade to cover the entire huge peninsula. A recent upgrade has allowed the Egyptians to station two brigades. But considering the threat posed by Al Qaeda elements supposedly migrating there to start terror activities against Israel and Egypt itself, this is a paltry military-police presence. Unless Israel rapidly changes its tune, the Sinai will become a no-man’s land.
But Israeli forces are prepared to fill the vacuum. I’ve predicted here an expanded Israeli counter-terror operation in Sinai replete with the sorts of drone, helicopter and F-16 attacks Israel now uses in Gaza and has used elsewhere like Lebanon. Israel will care very little for the niceties of sovereign borders. It never did in Lebanon, nor has it ever in the Palestinian territories. The only time Israel honors borders is when a country is powerful enough to stand in its way. Currently, Israel doesn’t find Egypt such a nation.
Israel, on the other hand, doesn’t take kindly to violation of its own sovereignty by foreigners, who are routinely designated as “infiltrators,” even if they’re civilians. Along the Lebanon and Syria border, the IDF murdered a score of protesters who tried to cross it during the Naksa last year. I guess what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander…
In a related matter, IDF soldiers have reported that they’ve actually been stationed and patrolled in Egyptian territory. They’ve apprehended within Egypt hundreds of African migrants who’ve crossed the desert to find asylum inside Israel. After detaining them, the IDF hands them over to Egyptian forces. Here is an affadavit by such a solider testifying to the IDF practice of violating Egyptian sovereignty.
Here is the original July report Haaretz published (Hebrew) about this story, which didn’t refer specifically to cross-border patrols.
The AP tells of Israeli human rights NGOs which received reports directly from IDF personnel who were alarmed by their assignment. The groups decried this new practice:
The report, released Friday by Amnesty International and several Israeli groups, including Hotline for Migrant Workers and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said that Israeli soldiers have entered several hundred meters (yards) into Egyptian territory to catch migrants and hand them over to Egyptian police.
The three rights group called on Israel to stop the practice, saying it was aimed at preventing migrants from entering Israel, where the government would then have to consider their claims of asylum. The groups said repatriating asylum seekers who might be in danger in their home countries is a violation of international law.
My source has attempted to ascertain whether there is a military censor’s gag on reporting this story. Though there doesn’t appear to be a formal one, Yediot’s Telem Yahav did original reporting, but was refused permission to publish. Though several Israeli soldiers had come forward to Yahav to confirm aspects of the story, the censor gagged the report. The censor can’t legally prevent Israeli media from reporting about the AP story. But it can gag stories whose information originates inside Israel. An incredibly pernicious system. The next time one of those hasbara boosters like Alan Dershowitz boasts about Israeli freedom of the press, tell ’em a thing or two. The IDF clearly does not like this story and wants it to disappear.
Part of the reason is that the practice of “Hot Returns,” which the IDF is using not only a violation of international law, but in direct violation of a Supreme Court ruling, which warned the IDF against it. But as in the case of moving the Separation Wall and so many other cases, the IDF considers Supreme Court rulings advisory rather than mandatory.
The AP lays out the truly disturbing aspects of it in terms of bi-lateral relations between Israel and Egypt:
The use of Israeli soldiers just inside Egyptian territory, with apparent Egyptian consent, would be a startling move, given widespread anti-Israeli sentiment among Egyptians and the strong sensitivities over Sinai, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and returned after the 1979 peace deal between the two countries.
The IDF is making a calculation that intercepting foreign migrants is more important to Israel than any domestic fallout within Egypt that could further poison relations. Personally, I think that’s a very dangerous calculation to make, one that could blow up in Israel’s face. Recall that after Israel invaded Egyptian territory and killed five Egyptian border policemen, protesters burned down the Israeli embassy. The Egyptian media has begun to pick up on the story.
In the AP report, the IDF spokesperson lies in claiming:
The Israeli military spokesman’s office said it would not confirm or deny the specific report…but…added, “In line with protocol Israeli military activity is within Israel.”
…It said Israeli soldiers have stopped groups several times and held them “until the arrival of Egyptian forces that took the infiltrators,” but did not comment on where this took place.
Clearly, he is not defining interdiction of foreign migrants by the IDF as a military activity. But in truth any activity by the IDF is ipso facto, military activity, including this. Israel is treating with disdain the notion of territorial sovereignty.
Reader Poll: I’m considering changing the way posts display on the main page. If you would prefer to see more posts on the main page, but in excerpt form which you’d have to click to read in full, let me know. The change would allow readers to see more posts in more condensed visual form. But it would force you to have to click through to read them in full rather than the current full post display.
15 thoughts on “Sinai Terror Attacks Portend Gold Mine for Israeli Military-Intelligence Services, IDF Infringes Egyptian Sovereignty to Intercept Foreign Migrants – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Like the way you do it now. One or two stories which are discussed very well and in depth. What sets you apart is how thoughtful and thorough you are. You provide good background.
I don’t need another long list of subjects that are treated only briefly individually.
I am sure that once the Sinai border fence is completed, Israel will not have to commit the egregious act of violating Egyptian sovereignty (by a few hundred meters) in order to stop infiltrators.
Till than, who really cares?
Did you care when Syrians and Lebanese tried to cross the Israeli border? Of course you did. You were up in arms about the attempted violation of Israeli sovereignty. You said the IDF did the right thing in mowing down the “infiltrators.” But yr hypocrisy is evidence in not giving a crap about your own country doing the same to its neighbor. When Egyptians next burn down the Israeli embassy for such infringements then perhaps you’ll understand why this happens (but it’s unlikely you’ll ever understand).
Uhh….didn’t Egyptians already try to burn down the Israeli Embassy?
Yup,and with your cavalier approach to Egypt’s sovereignty, they’ll do it again.
Joel, the “border fence” is not built exactly on the boarder line, but is to the east of it.
In some areas, where the topography is more difficult, the fence was built dozens of meters east to the boarder.
My guess is that this is what’s causing the confusion here (because the actual boarder is not clear, like with the boarder with Lebanon today which was marked with blue barrels by the UN after the 2006 war).
When I served in that area, we noticed that the Egyptian solders/border police police who also regularly crossed the boarder and leaned on the fence, not knowing they are already in Israel’s territory – something that caused an exchange of fire more than once.
As I explained, Israeli and Egyptian forces cross the border all the time. mostly due to lack of marking.
the smugglers (on both sides) and the guides which transfer infiltrators, use this confusion for their advantage.
Yes, but a large number of IDF soldiers patrolling the border seem to have more qualms than you about violating Egyptian sovereignty & being used to harrass women and children. That doesn’t seem to bother you. But thankfully all of these actions by the IDF bother them.
Most, if not all, of the soldiers who were patrolling the boarder with Egypt are reservists. We (reservists) never have any problem with going to the press, showing our faces and giving our names.
For example, a few years ago, the orders were to stop the infiltrators and hand them over to the Egyptian soldiers/boarder police as they cross the boarder.
Once a reservists complained to the press that the Egyptians sometimes shoot them after they are handed over, it stopped at once.
These “large number of IDF soldiers patrolling the border seem to have more qualms than you about violating Egyptian sovereignty & being used to harrass women and children” in the article are virtual, like so many IDF solders who reported something but remained unnamed, un-ranked, with no clue to what unit they are in.
So as a rule of thumb – when “IDF soldiers” report something to the press but no details are provided – its usually a fake.
Especially when they are reservists.
I’m afraid you, your readers, and even Israelis who never been on the Egyptians boarder have very little understanding on how it looks like, and the activity which takes place on it.
Sorry bud, but again unlike you, I have complete faith in Physicians for Human Rights and the Israeli NGOs who took the accounts of these IDF soldiers. You somehow believe the stories are made up out of whole cloth. Frankly, I find such a viewpoint offensive. If an IDF soldier went to an NGO anonymously saying things you agreed with you’d call him a very real hero, which indicates yr hypocrisy.
As for fakery, you’re the only fake I can see around here.
I’m all for synopses on the main page with clickable links to the stories
– if you have to scroll down (the current way) you can’t see the ‘full story’ anyway. For the rare articles I’m not interested in I could just skip by them and get to the ones of the most interest
I prefer it just the way it is.
Backstory on infrastructure attacks on the Egypt-Isreal/Jordan natural gas pipeline in the North Sinai: This pipeline has been attacked at least 21 times since 27 Jun 10; mostly by bombings (actual and attempted), though potshots have been taken as well. The attacks have interrupted natural gas supplies for extended periods, forcing Israel and Jordan to switch fuels for power stations to oil at considerable expense compared to the cost of the natural gas; formerly offered at less than market. The usual suspects (Bedouins) have been blamed without hard evidence. Attempts, mostly by Israel, to convince Egypt to get more actively involved in going after the perps have been largely ineffective. Egypt, under pressure from those Egyptians who do not like their gas sold at such rates, has unilaterally abrogated the natural gas supply agreement with Israel.
This is totally off-topic.
Please leave it the way it is. I read blogs on my mobile and it is twice the wait to click on a link to get to a post.