THEY’RE COMING: Israel Patrols Its Southern Border as ISIS Lurks in the Sinai Peninsula
As Israelis patrol the border with Egypt, they know that a group linked to ISIS is fighting the Egyptian army and would love to launch new attacks on Israel
Standing beside a Humvee with a rifle slung over her shoulder, 20-year-old Staff Sergeant Rotem Manzur shields her eyes from the merciless desert sun, and peers out over the 165-mile-long, 16-foot-high border fence separating Israel from Egypt.
About 300 meters from where she stands is an Egyptian soldier standing at his lookout post on the Egyptian side, doing the same thing Manzur is doing: keeping an eye out for ISIS-affiliated militants who have taken over a small part of the northern Sinai Peninsula.
“Look how close they are,” says Manzur, pointing to the Egyptian border post and then to the Israeli road that runs along this side of the fence. “It would be so easy for ISIS to fire on this road,” she says, as she ponders what would happen if gunmen ambushed the Egyptian soldiers, something that has been happening almost daily elsewhere in northern Sinai.
The Egyptian soldier waves at Manzur, who gets back in her Humvee to continue her patrol. She is one of approximately 120 female combat soldiers from the Caracal battalion—Israel’s first co-ed combat unit—who stand as Israel’s first line of defense against Islamist militants in Sinai.
The Egyptian army were once Israel’s adversaries, but the rise and growth of ISIS has brought these Middle Eastern neighbors, whose peace treaty is often seen as a fragile one, much closer.
According to Israeli security officials, Egypt and Israel are now engaged in an unprecedented collaborative mission to prevent the Sinai Peninsula from becoming the next stronghold of ISIS.
“This definitely represents the closest Israel and Egypt have ever cooperated on an intelligence level,” says Avi Melamed, the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs at the Eisenhower Institute in Washington D.C. “Israeli intelligence services do not rush to share their information with other intelligence agencies, even if it’s considered a friendly one, and especially not when it’s not friendly.”
Egyptian military activity in the Sinai was until recently prohibited by the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which transferred control of the Sinai from Israel to Egypt. This prohibition allowed outlaws of all kinds to operate more easily in the northern Sinai. About three years ago, Israel began permitting Egypt to deploy additional armed forces and carry out air strikes against Islamist rebels, says Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official. Israel and Egypt are now sharing intelligence, to warn each other of militant activity near the Israeli and Gazan borders.
Prior to the bombing of the Russian jet that exploded over the Sinai desert in October 2015, killing all 224 people aboard, Western security officials paid little attention to the Sinai branch of ISIS. But Egypt and Israel have watched closely as a group of Salafist militants in the Sinai established themselves as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) following the 2011 fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and proceeded to attack Egyptian and Israeli soldiers, civilians, and foreign tourists. In 2011, 13 Israelis and Egyptians were killed in a series of attacks that emanated from northern Sinai. In 2014, three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian driver were killed by a suicide bomber as they waited to cross the Taba border post between Egypt and Israel. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility.
A few months later, in November 2014, the group gave its allegiance to ISIS, declaring itself the Sinai Province of the Islamic State. Since then, Israeli officials say it has became
FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE CLICK LINKClick here for the Top 12 Moments in Jewish History...LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN! »