Monday, February 20, 2017

20-Feb-17: In Sinai, rocket-equipped ISIS jihadists remind Israelis this morning of an ongoing threat

Egyptian soldiers standing guard at a strategic site in Egypt's Sinai Desert, November 2015 [Image Source
Times of Israel reports this morning (Monday) that two rockets (mischievously and disingenuously described in a Guardian report today as "hand-made") were fired from Sinai into southern Israel's Eshkol region in the past hour. They crashed into open fields. It's reported that no one was injured and there are no signs of any damage caused in the attack, according to the IDF.

The Iron Dome incoming rocket alert system that has delivered breathtakingly-effective defensive results for the benefit of the thousands of Israelis living within range of the massively-well-equipped rocket jihadists in the Gaza Strip and the Sinai desert, was not activated this time. That's evidently because the system instantly computed that no populated Israeli area was threatened by the trajectory of the rockets.

So far, no terrorist group has claimed credit for the attack. But Times of Israel notes that it came hours after the Islamic State terrorists based in Sinai had accused Israel of killing five of its members in an airstrike.
According to Amaq news agency, an official media arm of the terror group, an Israeli drone struck a car with five Islamic State members in a village in the northern Sinai near the Egypt-Israel border on Saturday. The strike occurred near the village of Shabana, south of the town of Rafah, Amaq said. The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment, but generally refrains from confirming or denying strikes outside of Israel. ["Two rockets from Sinai hit southern Israel, IDF says", Times of Israel, February 20, 2017]
Ynet late last night (Sunday) quoted an ISIS news agency called al-Amaq saying that an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had attacked a vehicle in a village in the northern Rafah part of Egypt's Sinai desert the day before (Saturday). It said five members of its local group were killed in the Israeli attack and that, in Amaq's words they "fell as martyrs to the Jewish enemy", naming one of the dead jihadists as Hatab al-Maqdasi.

Ten days earlier, ISIS had claimed credit for four rockets fired into Eilat from Sinai [which we reported here]. ISIS had said then
A number of rockets were launched at Jewish centers in Eilat, known as Umm Rashrash. The Jews and Crusaders should know that the war of the apostles will not save them in any way. ["ISIS says Israel killed 5 of its members", Ynet, February 19, 2017]
A Financial Times article yesterday indicates the scale of what's at stake:
Isis operations in Egypt have largely remained confined to the jihadi group’s northern Sinai stronghold, but the group remains the biggest security threat facing the state. They have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen and have periodically been able to strike beyond their area with devastating impact... The northern Sinai, a large desert region that borders Gaza and Israel has long been blighted by lawlessness, neglected by Cairo and roamed by smugglers. The Sinai jihadis started out as a local group targeting Israel. But they intensified attacks against Egyptian security forces in 2013 after the army’s ouster of an elected Islamist president. In 2014 they swore allegiance to Isis naming themselves “Sinai Province.” ["Civilians caught in crossfire as Egypt battles Isis in Sinai", Financial Times, February 19, 2017
A 2016 BBC Monitoring backgrounder [here] says the Sinai-based jihadists have given signs of softening a previously harsh towards the Islamists of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It had previously criticized them for adopting "infidel democracy" but later called them "supporters of peacefulness" in encouraging them to revolt against Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

While ISIS have a host of determined enemies, there are obvious strategic reasons why they prefer to be seen as losing martyrs to the Israelis rather than the Egyptians, whether or not the evidence is with them.

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