Israel’s intelligence flaws in Sinai
Analysis: For Egypt, the Islamic State’s murderous attack against its troops in Sinai is a price it has taken into account. Israel, on the other hand, cannot afford to allow a threat to grow right under its nose while it is plagued with intelligence flaws in this area. And the danger doesn’t just lie across the border – it’s already here.
On Thursday morning, the Egyptian army put out a display of bloodied bodies. Some 60 dead bodies of Islamic State fighters were brought from all the areas of fighting and laid down in rows on the bottom of a pool in al-Arish. Nearby, in the shallow end of the same empty swimming pool, the Egyptian army unloaded dozens, if not hundreds, of different types of weapons used by the terrorists. Inside this pool of death one thing stood out – the fact most of the bodies were dressed in full military uniform, some of them including bullet-proof vests and proper load-bearing equipment.
On Thursday afternoon, the fighting died down in the area between al-Arish and the Egyptian Rafah. Now, they’re counting bodies. The Egyptian security forces, including the army, also have a few dozen casualties.
The attempt of “Islamic State’s Sinai District” to seize control of an urban area, specifically al-Arish, has failed. But the propaganda battle is still being waged. Who won? Who lost? Egypt has an ace up its sleeve for propaganda – the rows of bodies of enemy combatants, while ISIS can utilize the shock the Egyptian public felt in light of the combined attack its fighters staged this week, both in Sinai and in Egypt proper.
It’s hard to assess whether the current round of fighting on the northern shore of Sinai has ended, or if this is merely a lull, as this round of fighting between the Egyptian army and the Islamic State has caught intelligence agencies completely by surprise.
The IDF, which rushed to deploy troops to the border in the very first hours of fighting on Wednesday morning, has also taken into account the possibility that there was an intelligence oversight on Israel’s part as well, and that this round of fighting could suddenly start moving towards the Israeli border. This is why the IDF increased its observations and its intelligence gathering deep into the field.
On Wednesday morning, Israel could tell with greater certainty that ISIS had no plan to attack the Israeli border, but the IDF remained on high alert. Had ISIS been victorious against the Egyptians, they might have tried to leverage that against Israel. During situation assessments in Israel, a possibility was raised that Salafist groups within the Gaza Strip would take advantage of the opportunity and open another front against Israel. No one knew where this snow ball was going.
A front against Hamas, a front in Sinai
And that is the main problem. As far as we’re concerned, the State of Israel has once again received a clear strategic warning: There is an armed force operating in Sinai, organized in levels we’ve seen in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. This is no longer about armed Bedouin who attack Egypt military posts or hit the gas pipe every now and again. This is a group of Egyptian Bedouin with a jihadist ideology and foreigners who, over the past six months, made themselves at home in Sinai and have turned into an established military force.
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