Barak: Attack Shows Egypt Losing Control of Sinai

Monday's attack by terrorists against Israelis building the security fence shows that Egypt is losing control in Sinai, Ehud Barak said

David Lev ,

Sinai Border Fence Construction
Sinai Border Fence Construction

Monday morning's attack by terrorists against Israeli workers building the security fence on the southern border is further evidence of the increasing failure of Egyptian security efforts in Sinai, said Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Speaking at a meeting of his Atzma'ut faction, Barak said that several recent events, including Grad rocket attacks against Israel over the weekend, meant that Egypt needed to do more to fulfill its international obligations.

“We see Monday's attack as a very serious incident,” Barak said. “It comes in the wake of an incident on Shabbat in which two Grad rockets were fired into southern Israel from Sinai. These two incidents indicate a severe weakening of Egypt's control of Sinai.

“We hope and expect that in the wake of the elections in Egypt, whomever is elected will ensure that Egypt lives up to its international obligations, including its treaty with Israel. But first we expect an increase in security activity in Sinai,” Barak said. In addition to Monday morning's attack, Barak added, there had been several mortar and rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. The IDF responded, killing two Gaza Arab terrorists, members of Islamic Jihad, the Defense Minister added.

All this meant that Israel needed to remain on alert. “The activity by the IDF Monday morning in the wake of the attack prevented an expansion of the attack into Israeli cities, as soldiers eliminated two terrorists.” Reports later said that a third terrorist was killed.

The attack took place early Monday when a group of terrorists opened fire and set off an explosive at Defense Ministry contract workers who were working along the border fence with Egypt, near Nitzana. One of the workers, Sa'ed Fachachte, was wounded and died shortly thereafter of his wounds. IDF troops who were called to the scene began exchanging gunfire with the terrorists, killing at least two. A Kalashnikov rifle and hand grenades were found near the bodies of the terrorists. The entire southern area of Israel was on alert for hours afterwards, out of fear that several terrorists had gotten away and infiltrated Israel, but the alert was removed after several hours, when it was determined that no terrorist had escaped.

In an interview on Army Radio, a top IDF officer attributed the attack Monday to “tests” by Sinai Bedouin, seeking “weak points” in Israel's southern defenses. “The closing of the border by a high-tech fence will wreak havoc with the business of these Bedouin, much of whose income depends,on their ability to smuggle drugs and weapons into Israel,” the officer, Y., told reporters. “They are looking for ways to get through, and have been testing various methods. Terrorists coming from Sinai are also seeking ways around the fence, and Monday's attack may have been conducted by one or the other group, to see if they could blow up the fence and get through. Either way, the incident shows that completing the southern border fence is an imperative,” the officer said.