Israeli sources told Reuters on Friday there is evidence that Egypt's north Sinai region is becoming not only a rallying point for terrorists but a firing range for Gaza's rocket builders.
It was soon after the 2011 revolt in Egypt toppled President Hosni Mubarak that Israeli rocket radars began to spot unusual launches from the Gaza, the report noted.
While the rockets normally towards Israeli border towns, or north towards coastal cities, some are now aimed at the empty desert wastes of Sinai.
The purpose seemed clear, according to the sources: to test rockets made or smuggled in by Gaza terror groups who do not have space for a practice range.
“They have a Bedouin collaborator in Sinai who finds the crater and marks it by GPS,” an Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, describing a low-tech but effective method of tracking test-firings from Gaza.
A sheik from a Sinai village around 60 km from Gaza described how in June he heard several explosions and went to investigate. He found a spent rocket which had gouged a basketball-size hole in the ground.
“The remaining parts did not include any writings that could tell where the rocket came from,” the sheik was quoted by Reuters as having said.
The report added that while Gaza's Hamas government and its smaller Islamist factions deny conducting any military operations in Sinai, security officials from Egypt privately admit it has become a playground of bandits, smugglers and jihadis.
Tzvika Foghel, an Israeli brigadier-general in the reserves, recalled occasions when rockets were fired from the far western corner of Gaza at open areas of Israel, a diagonal span of more than 40 km.
“They could easily see where the rockets were landing by putting someone in an elevated position in Beit Hanoun,” Foghel told Reuters.
Israel's Gaza cordon includes advanced radars to detect and track rocket launches in real-time, the report said. The radars feed the Iron Dome anti-missile system, and rockets headed into the open Negev, deliberately or by mistake, are watched with interest by Israeli intelligence.
“There are those who see these practice launches as an opportunity to study what the enemy is planning and preparing for us,” a serving Israeli military officer said.
When Gaza-based terrorists fire a rocket in practice, the Israelis can study its trajectory and debris, but in Sinai the debris is beyond their reach.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)