Tuesday, October 12, 2004

On the Terrorist Attack in Egypt and Its Consequences

The terrorist attacks that took place in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 8, killing 34 people, most of them Israelis, may have significant consequences.

The first question that comes to mind is which organization or organizations may have staged these attacks. There are various possibilities. For the time being the generally accepted possibility is that these have been staged by Al-Qaeda reportedly in cooperation with Hezbollah, a group that is more active in Sinai and has the capacity to stage attacks there. There is also the possibility that radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. However, both of these organizations have announced that they had nothing to do with these incidents. Since these organizations have the tendency to claim responsibility for every attack they stage one gets the impression that they did not stage the Sinai incidents. Also, these organizations have adopted the policy of not taking action outside the Palestinian territories and they have not taken any such action to date. Another claim -one voiced especially by radical Palestinian groups-is that the Israeli intelligence service staged these attacks. This is a far-fetched idea put forth by assuming that Israel stands to benefit from these attacks.

Although the target were the Israelis the fact that the attacks took place on Egyptian soil makes one think that this is a message, a warning issued to Egypt. But why Egypt? We can say that the behind the answer to that question lies the recent attempts to ensure cooperation between Israel and Egypt regarding Gaza. (See: Middle East, Daily Assessment, Aug. 10, 2004) Israel has been seeking cooperation with Egypt to ensure Gaza's security (that is, to ensure that there will be no terrorist infiltration into or terrorist incidents in Gaza) after the evacuation of the region in line with the Gaza Plan. The Egyptian side views that suggestion in a warm light though it has some reservations. Therefore, one could say that this is a warning issued to Egypt because of that process of cooperation.

The attacks can be expected to have consequences involving the Egyptian-Israeli relations and Israel's Gaza policy. Although the incidents were targeted against Israelis these incidents can bring about results in Israel's favor. According to the Camp David accord signed between Israel and Egypt is banned from having troops in the border region of Sinai except the security forces equipped with certain types of light arms.

Despite that Israel wants Egyptian troops to enter the region to prevent infiltrations from Egypt to Gaza and to ensure border security. Meanwhile, Israel thinks that Egypt is not too eager to cooperate with Israel in the border region and that Egypt is not taking substantial steps to ensure border security. Indeed, until the recent attacks Egypt had approached that issue suspiciously. The terrorist attacks that have taken place in Egypt will push Egypt into cooperating more with Israel to ensure border security. In fact, immediately after these attacks Egypt reported told Israel it wanted to send troops to Sinai to ensure security. Egypt thinks that if it puts troops into Sinai it will be easier for it to take measures against infiltrations through the border. In other words from now on we can expect Egypt to be more eager to ensure the security of its Gaza border. And that is something Israel has wanted all along.

These attacks may cause Egypt to take part in the fight on terror more effectively from now on. The allegation that these terrorist acts were committed by the Hezbollah cells in Sinai in cooperation with Al-Qaeda will force Egypt to clamp down on these organizations in the Sinai region. Israel talks about the presence of Hezbollah cells in Sinai. It believes that some of the infiltrations into Gaza take place via these cells. Considering that the process of Egypt putting troops into that region will gain momentum we can expect the fight on these cells to intensify.

Another consequence of these attacks is likely to appear in the context of the operations Israel has held in Gaza in recent weeks. In operations Israel staged over the past two weeks more than 110 people died. Israel, who has come under criticism and pressure from the international community due to these operations, may find a chance to act with more ease in Gaza in the wake of the terrorist attacks directed against Israeli citizens in Egypt.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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