The series of terror attacks that took place early Thursday afternoon on the road leading from the Israeli-Egyptian border to Eilat did not come as a surprise to Israel's senior security officials. They had expected it would occur at some stage or another.
The escalating security situation in the Sinai Peninsula, continuous work on the new border barrier and the frustration of terror groups within the Gaza Strip who - for some time now - have not managed to successfully carry out a terror attack from within the Strip, all pointed at the likelihood of an attempt to attack via the Egyptian border.
It is still too early to tell whether the terrorists who carried out Thursday's attacks exited Egypt, passed through Sinai and headed south toward the region of Eilat, or if this was the action of a terrorist cell of Islamic origins, acting for some time already in Sinai. In any case, it is clear that the Egyptian revolution that began in Tahrir Square and spread through other Arab states has now made its way into Israel.
Over the past few months, Israel has allowed the Egyptian army to increase its forces in Sinai a number of times, allowing much larger Egyptian forces there than the Camp David Accords allowed for, including the entry of thousands of Egyptian soldiers and tanks in the El Arish region and northern Sinai, within the framework of a widespread mission against al-Qaida. It is now evident that the Egyptian efforts alone are not enough, and that the Israel Defense Forces – who over the past three decades has been able to reduce its forces along the Egyptian border, focusing instead on reinforcing the northern border, West Bank and Gaza Strip – will now have-to strengthen its presence in the south.
This is not just a case of transferring security forces. There is a far greater need to complete the construction of the southern border and its fortification via advanced observation posts, which requires hundreds of millions of shekels in increased funding for the security budget. The Finance Ministry's spin two days ago about halving the security budget ended within 48 hours, as the gunmen opened fire near Eilat.
Beyond the financial aspect, Israel's security heads will need to get used to a state in which, as it seems, they cannot depend on its ally, the Egyptian army, to protect its southern front.
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