If the reports
of an Israeli drone attacking
a terror cell preparing to launch a rocket into Israel
are true then it would be the first time since Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty in 1979 that Israel's forces have operated within Sinai, or Egypt for that matter – except a single incident during the terror attack along Route 12
two years ago. Like now, at the time, an Israel aircraft – according to Egyptian media reports, a helicopter – entered into Egypt, fired on terrorist but also at Egyptian soldiers, who return fire with a rocket in its direction.
The difference between what happened then and what allegedly happened Friday is that the alleged drone attack of the terrorists near Egypt's Rafah in Sinai was probably undertaken at Israel's own initiative. The reason for the initiative is what is called 'a live prevention' of an imminent attempt to launch either a rocket or a long-range missile. It is safe to assume that those behind the attack are a group of Salafist Bedouins attempting to launch either a Fajr or M75 Fajr-like missile made in the Gaza Strip by either Hamas
or the Islamic Jihad
An additional possibility is that the terrorists attempting to fire the rocket were Palestinians, maybe Hamas men, or more likely, members of the Popular Resistance Front or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They all have an interest to spike unrest in the West Bank, mainly because of the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians with the conclusion of the Ramadan – always an explosive time.
The fact that the rocket was to be launched from Rafah seems to hint at the possibility that it was indeed Palestinians, as there is no small number of tunnels connecting Gaza to the Egyptian town in the area. In such a scenario, one can assume that the terrorists passed through the tunnels, set-up the launcher in Rafah and then attempted to launch a rocket from it, in a bid to put the Egyptian army in a bind with Israel.
It is safe to assume that Israel would not risk its relations with Egypt if there was not a direct and immediate threat to the lives of Israeli citizens. If so, the incident can be seen as a 'ticking bomb' taken out so as to save lives, and as such, as a call that trumps diplomatic and political considerations.
The interest of Jihadist or Salafist groups to fire into Israel is that of killing two birds with one rocket onslaught. They want to directly cause harm to Israel but also to pull Israel and Egypt into conflict. The Egyptian army has been working tirelessly recently to 'cleanse' Sinai of terrorists, and Israel is more than aware of its efforts.
We can presume that Israel is content with the army's determined battle against terror groups and organizations active in Sinai. Nonetheless, Israel cannot let terrorists attack its communities in the Negev with rockets or missiles. The defense establishment in Israel has been keeping mum in regards to reports, but a source said: "We are aware of the intensified Egyptian army activities against terror in the Sinai region."
The comment can be understood as an apology of sorts that Israel – according to foreign media reports, in light of the direct and imminent threat to its citizens' lives – was forced to act on its own over Egypt's sovereign soil.
It is also safe to assume that the Egyptian army will not be pleased by the fact that targets were engaged on sovereign Egyptian territory by Israel aircraft. However, in light of the fact that it was allegedly an unmanned aircraft, and the event did have a humanitarian justification, it is possible that with a little help from our American friends, the incident might just pass without response.