The bodies of those involved in the attack against an Egyptian police station in the Sinai were handed over to Egyptian authorities by Israel. Yet, until their identity is revealed, speculation regarding the nature and goals of the attack will abound. Although suspicion has fallen on the jihadists who have been hanging around the Sinai since the country’s grip on security loosened, it is necessary to determine if these jihadists are locals who have benefited from Egyptian political developments and conspired with their counterparts in the Gaza Strip, or of the type that was deployed in Iraq to serve regional powers.
The attack has revealed a number of important facts concerning the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border triangle. First and foremost, it has shown that the area is the soft underbelly of the Sinai’s security on both the Egyptian and Palestinian sides. This weakness allowed for the easy execution of such a bloody attack. Had they fled into the Egyptian desert instead of heading toward Israel, it is likely that a long time would have passed before they were arrested. However, after entering Israel, they were killed by an Israeli air strike targeting the vehicle that they had stolen from the Egyptian police station.
Secondly, this attack confirms that the Egyptian-Palestinian border is not only penetrated by those smuggling goods, but also by jihadists coming from Egypt seeking refuge in Gaza, and vice versa. Every time an attack takes place in the Sinai, whether against Egyptian forces or tourists, Cairo announces its suspicion that parties from Gaza were involved, just as it has done regarding this recent attack.
This fact had a direct impact on the Gaza siege, and led to the closing of border crossings and tunnels by Egypt, either by a direct decision on the part of the Egyptian authorities, or as a result of pressure from Israel, which has always claimed that perpetrators of attacks within Israel are entering from the Sinai.
In this regard, Israel is taking advantage of such attacks, using them as justification to push measures that serve the state’s security vision for the border triangle. Israel has also used this opportunity to display its continuous readiness and military superiority. This comes at a time in which Egypt is showing an incomprehensible loosening of security in the Sinai, going against the limitations of the peace treaty.
However, the fact that Israel is the one who benefits politically from these terrorist attacks does not mean that security forces should not seek out the perpetrators. Through orchestrating these attacks, the perpetrators are serving Israeli interests by undermining Egyptian security and providing Israel with pretexts to justify the way it deals with Palestinians.
While the Egyptian military released a statement stressing that the perpetrators of the latest attack are terrorists who received help from Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader became president of Egypt, has accused the Israeli Mossad of being behind the attack. These allegations were made before any serious and credible investigation was conducted. The deposed government in the Gaza Strip has echoed the Brotherhood’s position.
Although the Mossad does not hesitate to orchestrate killings, particularly when they serve Israeli interests, to hastily accuse the Mossad of being behind the latest attack in the Sinai is to overlook a number of facts relating to the prevailing situation in the peninsula.
These accusations draw the focus away from the identity of the actual perpetrators, in addition to impeding any official action to deal with this growing phenomenon, something that President Morsi vowed not to neglect.
On the other hand, the current political environment, in which Israel is affected by turmoil in Arab countries, is contributing to the promotion of extremism. This is particularly true in light of the new political climate in Egypt, in which the Brotherhood has a large influence on politics, and in the Gaza Strip, where a branch of the Brotherhood is ruling.