Flames rising from a gas pipeline explosion in El-Arish last month.
Flames rising from a gas pipeline explosion in El-Arish last month. Photo by AP
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IDF soldiers look at wreckage of Egyptian military vehicle used in Sinai attack, August 6. 2012. Photo by AP

A single network comprised of diverse Islamic extremists who all identify with Al-Qaida's ideology is responsible for most of the attacks that have taken place along the Egyptian border over the past year, Israeli intelligence now believes.

Though the network is based in the Sinai Peninsula, a substantial number of its members are Egyptians who don't live in Sinai.

Egyptian newspapers have reported that two of the three terrorists involved in last month's attack near Mount Harif, which killed Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi, were formerly students living in Egypt's Nile Delta region rather than Sinai Beduin. According to the media reports, both of them had families, were relatively well-off and, until recently, had shown no signs of religious extremism. One of them was identified with the Muslim Brotherhood now in power, while his comrade had recently joined the Salafist movement.

The two left their homes about a month before the attack, but their families thought they had gone to help the Syrian opposition in its battle against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The third terrorist in the Mount Harif attack, who was carrying an explosive belt that blew up during the gun battle with Israel Defense Forces soldiers, has yet to be identified.

An analysis of the attacks over the past 14 months - the killing of eight Israelis at Ein Netafim in August 2011, the Mount Harif attack, periodic shootings and missile launchings from Sinai, and the repeated sabotaging of the gas pipeline to Israel - yields a relatively broad common denominator that points to a single organization being responsible. But the evolving assessment is that this jihadist group, while based in Sinai, recruits members from other Arab states as well as from the rest of Egypt.

Moreover, while there may be some link to organizations in Gaza, this link is weakening. Israeli intelligence no longer sees Sinai as the "backyard" of the Gaza organizations, but as the home of an independent jihadist network.