|Sinai Desert, ad agency edition|
A week ago, an IDF patrol [source: AFP] intercepted a gang of what appeared to be smugglers working the Egypt/Israel border. One of them hurled a bag at the Israeli soldiers; it turned out to contain explosives that fortunately failed to detonate. Two days later on February 23, in about the same border location, an IDF patrol found another bag containing a large explosive device. A syndicated AFP report then said that similar incidents had been on the increase in recent months and that Israel was warning that "lawlessness in post-revolution Egypt is allowing militants to use Sinai to stage attacks against the Jewish state".
This morning, a further escalation in about the same place as those two incidents. The IDF says today that soldiers patrolling the Israel-Egypt border spotted several suspicious-looking individuals attempting to infiltrate across the Sinai border and into Israel. Acting according to defined procedure, the soldiers called on the intruders to stop. No response but instead a firefight broke out. Most of the suspects fled to Egyptian territory leaving behind one who was shot dead.
|Israel's Project Hourglass security fence |
now under accelerated construction
Fences have not managed to prevent a series of sabotage attacks [we wrote about them here: "5-Feb-12: Gas pipeline is attacked and blown up for twelfth time in a year" and earlier] on the pipeline that brings gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan. A Reuters report getting wide coverage today calls the pipeline "an easy target for anti-Israel Islamists" and one of the "first victims" of the ongoing revolution in Egypt that brought down the Mubarak regime. Reuters quotes Israel's Energy Minister speaking of blackouts this summer: "We may not be able to keep the power switch on".
It's not all darkness and gloom. Israel made several huge offshore natural gas discoveries over the past three years (says the same Reuters report today) that will eventually ensure Israeli energy independence for decades and even make it an exporter. But that gas will not start to flow until the second quarter of 2013. And in another much less-publicized report, the supply of gas from Egypt to Israel resumed today. No one is saying for how long. And yesterday, an Israeli diplomat, Yaacov Amitai, started his official duties as ambassador to Cairo. Yitzhak Levanon who preceded him, left Egypt in September in a rush after Egyptian rioters stormed the Israeli embassy in the wake of those Sinai killings we mentioned above.
The gyrations of post-Mubarak are unlikely to settle down soon. There's a three-way power struggle underway among the military (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein who are in tight charge of government), the Islamists (now in effective control of the parliament) and the Tahrir Square liberal/student/Facebook/democratic revolutionary/activists (not in charge of anything except perhaps the mindshare of many of the Western journalists covering the turbulence).
|Tahrir Square, Cairo, 2011: Chaos and clashes [source]|
- Julie Ann Hughes, Egypt Country Director, National Democratic Institute. Plus Layla Gafar, Michael James, Sitia Nilhaj, Robert Becker (Political Party Trainer, Middle East and North Africa), Dana Diaconu (Senior Program Manager) and Kabir Moderibee from the same organization
- Samuel LaHood (Country Director for Egypt), International Republican Institute (his father is US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood). Plus Elizabeth Dugan (Vice President), Hans Chris, Osama Azizi, John George Toma, Sian Mark and Sherine Nafeet from the same organization.
- Charles Dunne (Director of Middle East and North Africa) and Sharif Mansour (Senior Program Officer of Middle East and North Africa), Freedom House
- Natasha Tynes (Program Director) and Patrick Butler (Vice President) for the International Center for Journalists. Plus Megan Mitchell from the same organization.
|In Egypt, the starkly uneven distribution of poverty|
makes a bad situation truly explosive
"An acute financial crisis could undermine Egypt’s political transition. With mounting debts, negligible economic growth and dwindling foreign reserves, the military rulers and the new Islamist-led Parliament now confront some difficult choices, beginning with an all but inevitable further devaluation of Egypt’s currency that could send the prices of food and other goods soaring."All things considered, that Hourglass fence is looking like a good Israeli investment.