Israel has been warned that a terrorist cell linked to the Islamic Jihad and based in the Sinai Peninsula may try to carry out a series of attacks over the coming days, Home Front Minister Matan Vilnai said on Tuesday.
The cell, which Vilnai said comprises at least 10 militants, has been preparing for such attacks for some time and may exploit the Eid al-Fitr holiday as "the right time" to carry out their plot.
Israeli forces will continue to remain on high alert along the border, in an operation coordinated with their Egyptian counterparts, Vilnai said.
The defense establishment is on guard to thwart attacks in Eilat bay or near the security fence on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. In addition, security forces are on alert for any infiltration attempts. Highways 10 and 12 in southern Israel will remain closed off to civilian traffic due to the terror threats.
The independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Tuesday that Egyptian security forces have launched a widespread operation to crack down on terrorist elements in the Sinai Peninsula.
More than 1,500 Egyptian soldiers have been deployed in the peninsula backed by armored vehicles and tanks to comb the areas around Rafah, Al-Arish and Sheikh Zwaid, according to various Arab media reports.
Cairo is concerned that terrorist organizations operating in Sinai are planning to carry out attacks over the course of the Eid al-Fitr holiday this week, said the report in Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The Israel Defense Forces is on high alert along the Egyptian border anticipating the terrorist group's activities, according to Israel Radio, and has spread out troops particularly in areas where terrorists may be able to cross through easily.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Israel Police, the Shin Bet security service, and the IDF are working full force to prevent any sort of attack from occurring.
IDF chief Benny Gantz ordered the deployment of reinforcements around both the southern Gaza Strip and the Egyptian border on Sunday night, due to intelligence reports suggesting an imminent attack by the Islamic Jihad. The reinforcements were coordinated with the Egyptian army.
Although security sources estimate that the Islamic Jihad is planning the possible attack, a security official made clear that the IDF will hold Hamas responsible for any terrorist attack originating from the Gaza Strip.
According to estimates, members of the Islamic Jihad are currently in Sinai, and despite the recent ceasefire are interested in carrying out a new attack. Security officials say that the array of tunnels along the border allowed members of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) to cross from Gaza to Sinai and carry out the attacks in Eilat a week and a half ago.
On Sunday, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Egypt is considering setting up a buffer zone on its border with the Gaza Strip following the recent bloodshed. The plan includes removing smuggling tunnels running across the 14-kilometer-long border with Gaza.
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