There is apparently no connection between the terror attack on the Israel-Egypt border Monday morning and the Islamic Brotherhood’s claim of victory in Egypt’s presidential elections. According to assessments, the border clash was initiated by Bedouin smugglers in the northern Sinai who are interested in slowing down the pace of Israel’s fence construction.
Unlike the Bedouins, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in the Gaza Strip among Hamas have no interest in escalation on the Sinai border at this time. With an apparent Islamist victory in the elections, they are in fact interested in demonstrating control and maintaining a “business-as-usual” façade.
On the other hand, Sinai’s Bedouins and their collaborators among the Bedouin’s in Israel’s Negev have an urgent interest in producing violent border clashes. Their goal is to delay, as much as possible, the construction of Israel’s steel fence and adjacent intelligence-gathering apparatus.
The rapid pace of the work at this time is eliminating the breaches in the old fence used to easily bring into Israel African migrants, as well as drugs and weapons for terrorists. As result of this, the huge sums earned by the northern Sinai Bedouins (to the tune of hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of dollars) have plummeted as of late.
It is no wonder then that Sinai’s Bedouins are panicking when they see their golden goose being slaughtered right before their eyes. They know that they cannot completely avert the construction of the fence, yet every delay in building it means an added profit of tens of thousands of dollars.
The modus operandi they are adopting at this time towards Israel is terror and deterrence, the same means used some months ago against Egyptian troops and security agents who attempted to block the smuggling routes to Israel. The Bedouins are not short on weapons; they possess huge depots of heavy machineguns, RPG rockets and launchers of all types, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as advanced Grad rockets and worse.
Prepare for restive summer
Most of these weapons, which arrived from Libya, are available to the Bedouins, who are gaining experience in using them. They are even getting training from Palestinian terrorists from Gaza as well as from Global Jihad members. Israel had a tragic opportunity to witness these capabilities first-hand in the attack on Highway 12 last August that claimed the lives of eight Israelis.
The Bedouins’ cheekiness is reinforced by the realization that the IDF will avoid as much as is possible operating in the Sinai, as not to hurt Egypt’s honor and sovereignty at this sensitive period. This is apparently the only indirect link between Monday’s attack and the Egyptian elections.
The Bedouins in the Sinai are closely familiar with the work procedures of fence contractors. The latest rocket attacks and border strikes are meant to terrorize civilian contractors and their employees, who until now traveled along the border as if it was their backyard in central Israel. The Bedouins also want to force the IDF to boost its security operations, including armed escorts, thorough searches for roadside bombs, and an earlier curfew for laborers in the area. All of the above will surely slow the pace of construction, the extra hours will accumulate into nights, and these nights will translate into dollars.
Once the fence will be up, the Bedouins will look for other methods. For now, they are mounting a rearguard battle. This is the challenge faced by the IDF, assuming that the attacks will keep growing worse, especially via the firing of anti-tank missiles or even the launching of anti-aircraft missiles at helicopters and the planting of explosives along the border fence.
As long as the fence is not completed, the latest attack, as well as the rockets fired into the Negev over the weekend, will serve as a harbinger of a restive summer in the south.