Today I woke up to news of militants having crossed the border into Southern Israel and killed seven. Israel has almost reflexively blamed Hamas, in Gaza, and there is fear that Israel will react with force against the occupied territories.
Israel’s situation contains an inherent hypocricy. On the one hand, they blame Egypt for not having control over the Sinai – but on the other hand, it is Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel which limits its authority there. The situation is more complicated because just a few days ago Netanyahu approved a temporary increase in Egyptian troop presence in the Sinai, which Egypt requested to confront the various militant groups that exercise control in the area, and to prevent bombings against a gas pipeline between Egypt, Jordan and Israe. Increased troop presence does not, however, bring immediate stability to an area – a fact that the Israelis should be familiar with. Increased military presence against militant groups can increase their popularity amongst locals, and encourage them to carry out more operations both in the hopes of making the state army feel they can’t win, and in the fear that they may fare poorly in the crackdown and after it no longer have the capacity to carry out such attacks.
Egypt’s operations in the Sinai have been quick, explicit, and lethal. Yesterday was a flurry of activity: the Egyptian military raided a camp suspected of training Al-Qaida inspired militants. They have also exposed and raided a large munitions factory that produces explosives, rockets and munitions in Al-Arish. But with such anti-militant activity, there is also the killing of locals which could turn the population against the Army – also yesterday Bedouins in the Sinai expressed their anger at the killing of two locals by blockading a road – they suspect the killing was carried out by Egyptian security. And two other Bedouins were killed by Egyptian soldiers as they tried to flee a military checkpoint. Egypt may believe that these operations will lead in the long term to greater control over the area, but undoubtedly in the meantime these actions will make things chaotic.
It is probably in the context of Egyptian military operations in northern Sinai that we should interpret the incursion by Militants into Israel, and the attack there. Hamas claims they are not responsible, and that their security strategy against the Israelis is based on securing the occupied territories against incursion, not on outside attacks.
I find that I can’t write blog posts like this fast enough even to have to wait for the conclusion. As I write this and refresh my google news, I find that mere minutes ago reports have come in that Israel has shelled Gaza in retaliation. I also find, strangely, that the globe and mail article (actually associated press) which was the first I read, has been altered and now does not speak about Hamas’ security policy, but instead speaks about specific Israeli intelligence that this act was carried out by people from Gaza.
At least seven people in Gaza have been reported dead, including a senior member in the popular resistance committees.