Officials within the Israeli defense establishment voiced concern on Thursday over recent developments in the Gaza Strip and the situation in the Sinai Peninsula, fearing it may escalate due to Egyptian reports of a wide-scale operation by the army against the militant groups operating there.
Israeli concerns are focused on the possibility that the violence will seep into the Negev and the Arava, and officials said the defense establishment is preparing for these scenarios.
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The Egyptian operation is expected to include special forces units, armored vehicles, helicopters and the two infantry regiments that Israel allowed to enter into Rafah and el-Arish.
Egyptian army forces in el-Arish (Photo: AFP)
The operation follows several violent clashes between the Egyptian army and al-Qaeda affiliated groups in northern Sinai. After three Egyptian citizens were killed on Tuesday in a rocket attack on a bus driving in northern Sinai, the army claimed it has killed ten jihadist militants over the last few days.
Aside from concerns that the violence may seep into Israeli territory, officials were also worried over the repercussions entailed by the power change in Cairo and the impending operation on the Hamas regime in Gaza, as Egyptian army officials accuse Hamas of interfering in the country's politics and contributing to the unrest.
Third Army Commander General Osama Askar stated on Wednesday that his forces captured 19 Grad rockets from Suez en route to Cairo, and added they are of the same make as those in Hamas' hands, and he estimated they were sent to Cairo to aid the Muslim Brotherhood.
Over the last two weeks the Egyptian army destroyed dozens of smuggling tunnels between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, considered a significant lifeline for Hamas. Meanwhile, in the first such incident in a month, two Qassam rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip, exploded Thursday in the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damages were reported.
Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, addressed efforts to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it is a waste of time.
Ilana Curiel, Roi Kais contributed to this report
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