Defense Min.: Egyptian Sinai Op. Dragging Out

Moshe Yaalon: Egyptian army operating effectively but process is taking longer "than we'd like"

Gil Ronen ,

Minister Moshe Yaalon
Minister Moshe Yaalon
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Tuesday that while the Egyptian army is operating effectively against terrorists in the Sinai, the process is taking longer than Israel had hoped.

Yaalon spoke as he toured the Arava Division, where he was briefed by Southern Command Head, Major General Sami Turgeman, Division Commander Brig. Gen. Nadav Padan, and senior officers in the division.

He then toured the border with Egypt and visited the Iron Dome battery near Eilat, where he spoke with the battery's commander, Major Revital, and other officers and soldiers. He then met with Eilat Mayor, Meir Yitzha Halevy, for a work meeting.

Yaalon said that he wanted to see from up close how the military was dealing with the deterioration in the security situation in the Sinai desert. “We receive reports of terror attacks there every day,” he said, “and the concern, of course, is that the guns will be turned against us.”

While Israel has bolstered its forces along the border and placed the Iron Dome battery to protect Eilat, he added, “I hope that the Egyptian defense system overcomes the challenge of extremist Islam in Sinai. They have beefed up forces there and are preparing to take action in an offensive.”

Yaalon said that all Egyptian forces that entered Sinai did so with Israeli approval, as required by the peace accord between the countries. “We see more effective action by the Egyptian Army and security forces there in recent months,” he added, “and especially in recent weeks, since the regime change. Forces that are acting more aggressively in Sinai, with attack helicopters as well. This is, indeed, more effective action, but apparently this is a longer process than what we would have liked.”

Since the ouster of Islamist Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, jihadi terrorist groups have upped a campaign of violence against security forces and Egyptian civilians, particularly in the Sinai region. Attacks also include the targeting of Egyptian Christians, as well as a gun attack on an Israeli border post, which was claimed by a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group.

The current Egyptian operation is aimed at rooting-out those groups, and restoring order to the increasingly lawless Sinai region.