Friday, January 25, 2008

Increased Security Threat from Egypt after Border Breach

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

As a result of the demolition of the separation wall between Gaza and Egypt on Wednesday, police and military forces have increased security measures along the Israeli border with Egypt. Israelis visiting the Sinai Peninsula have been instructed to return home immediately. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the Palestinian Authority in Gaza have entered Sinai since Wednesday morning. According to Israeli intelligence assessments, it is likely that PA terrorists have taken advantage of the
It is likely that PA terrorists have taken advantage of the border breach.
border breach to exit Gaza in order to infiltrate Israel via the Egyptian border. Commanders from the military, intelligence agencies, the police and other security bodies in the south have been meeting to coordinate their response to the increased threat.

As a first step, IDF forces on the border with Egypt have been put on a higher alert level, and are consulting and coordinating with police and local municipalities in the south. The army has ordered Route 10 along the Israeli border with Egypt to be temporarily closed to civilian traffic due to security concerns.

In addition, the National Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Bureau urges Israelis currently in the Sinai Peninsula to return to Israel immediately. The bureau issued a warning on Thursday saying that Israelis should absolutely avoid travel to the Sinai at this time. Security officials explained that PA terrorists are planning to kidnap Israelis in Sinai and bring them to Gaza. Terrorists would find it easy to enter Egypt and return to Gaza with kidnapping victims due to the open border between Sinai and southern Gaza, they said.

To further preserve security in the south, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter has ordered police to step up operations in the vicinity of the Israel-Egypt border. In the wake of the massive southward flight of PA residents, he expressed concern that terrorists could try to sneak in from the Sinai along with a group of refugees or smugglers.

While Gaza is bounded on the Israeli side by a relatively secure perimeter barrier, the border between Egypt and Israel is much more open. Security officials estimate that hundreds of people, most of them African refugees, smugglers and migrant workers, manage to cross the border illegally every month.

US Offers to Help Egypt; Mubarak Says 'Not Yet'
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said Thursday that the US would be willing to help Egypt regain control of the border with Gaza. Burns told journalists that the US believes that Egypt must restore security along its border. In response to pressure along these lines from both the US and Israel, Egypt announced that the border would be closed at Friday at 1 PM.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Thursday that Egypt would not prevent the free movement of Gaza Arabs in the Rafiah area until they had a chance to purchase goods in Egyptian stores. Israel has allowed only essential goods in through Gaza crossings in recent weeks, causing a sharp increase in the cost of certain products, such as gasoline, cheese, and cigarettes. However, Hamas officials have admitted that the demolition of the Gaza-Egypt border was planned months in advance. It was, they said, not related to the partial embargo imposed by Israel.

No comments: