The remains of a rocket attack on Netivot in southern Israel
The remains of a rocket attack on Netivot in southern Israel. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkowitz
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Israeli security officials say that the rockets that landed on Friday in the area near Ovda and Mitzpeh Ramon, were launched after a request by senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. According to these officials, the rockets were launched from the Sinai Peninsula by a Bedouin unit, according to Hamas orders, even though Hamas itself wasn't the initiator of the launching, but responded to the request of the Brotherhood, who wanted such an event on the eve of the second round of presidential elections in Egypt. It is yet unclear why the Brotherhood requested such an unusual action, a first military strike against Israel, or whether the strike was aimed at specific sites in the area.

So far, the Muslim Brotherhood leaders have presented a moderate stance towards Israel in their talks with the international community, stressing that they had no intention of annulling the peace accords, a position reiterated by presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi. Still, in the buildup to the elections, Brotherhood speakers have been known to speak fiercely against Israel. In one gathering, in the beginning of May at El-Mahalla El-Kubra, Brotherhood leaders promised, in the presence of Morsi, that the object of the Brotherhood is to liberate Jerusalem. The main speaker at that gathering, Sifwat Hijazi, said that Morsi would liberate Jerusalem and that the Brotherhood's dream was the creation of the "united Arab nations," with Jerusalem as its capital. "Our capital won't be Mecca or Medina, but Jerusalem, millions of shahids will march on the city" shouted Hijazi, "the whole world should know - and we say it clearly - our goal is Jerusalem, we shall pray in Jerusalem, and if not - we shall die as martyrs on its ruins." Another speaker that day said that "tomorrow Morsi will liberate Gaza." A singer sang: "The Jews will not be able to sleep, come, lovers of martyrs, you're all Hamas. Take on arms, and prepare for prayer."

The remains of the 122 mm Grad rockets were discovered yesterday in the Ovda area, north of Eilat, and in the Mizpeh Ramon area. Security forces began searching for the remains on Friday after hearing the explosions. This was the first time rockets landed in these areas. Last April three Grad rockets were launched at Eilat. Then, too, there was no prior warning, and the fact that they were fired from the Sinai Peninsula was clarified only after their remains were found. In August, 2010, five Grad rockets were launched from Egyptian territory, causing the death of a Jordanian citizen. In recent months Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed their fear that the Sinai Peninsula has become a greenhouse for Islamist terror groups, and is being used by Hamas as a "back yard," for various experiments. Last August, a deadly terror attack from the peninsula was initiated, according to Israeli officials, by the Popular Resistance Committees, and carried out by Islamist Extremists.

Morsi is considered to be the leading candidate in the elections which continue today. The Muslim Brotherhood controls 49 percent of the seats in the Egyptian parliament. Even if Morsi is elected as early as tonight, his powers are still to be determined and it is yet unknown if he will be the considered the supreme commander of the armed forces - as in the Mubarak era. If Morsi is indeed elected, one can expect a bitter struggle between the Brotherhood and the military council as to the control of the armed forces.

The IDF has not changed its alertness status following the rockets on Friday. Officials say that due to the elections in Egypt, the IDF will react moderately, even though it will continue monitoring rocket launching at areas that were not targeted before.

IDF officer define the situation in the Sinai border as "unclear," and believe that certain parts of the Sinai Peninsula are considered "no man's land." Officers serving in the area said, even before the last rocket launchings that the southern command has held discussions of possible responses in case of a terrorist attack from Egyptian territory. "That would be a very disturbing and problematic event," said one of the officers. The deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh, recently defined the Sinai Peninsula as "a terror area, instead of a demilitarized zone between two state who signed a peace treaty."

IDF officers are mostly worried about arm smuggling in the area. Officials say there is an increase in arms smuggling from Lybia to Egypt through the peninsula, and from there to Gaza. Another smuggling route leads from Sudan to the Sinai Peninsula. The IDF, therefore regards the peninsula as difficult security challenge, specially because Israel cannot act in the area.

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