Analysis/ A Taba-Sharm Link?

The trial of the three defendants charged with the bombing of the Taba Hilton last year resumes today in Ismailia in northeast Egypt. Is this date the motive behind the terror attack at Sharem El-Sheikh?

Two organizations assumed responsibility for the attack at Sharm el-Sheikh: the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and "the Al-Qaida organization in the countries of al-Sham [Syria and Lebanon] and Egypt." Both organizations also took responsibility for the terror attacks at the Taba Hilton last October.

But the Taba attack was also claimed at the time by an organization called "Al-Tawhid," which said the hit was meant to avenge the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. A short time after, another organization, "the international Islamic jama'a," took responsibility for the Taba attack, which it justified as vengeance for the murder of Palestinians and Iraqis.

Ultimately, from among all those claiming responsibility, three Egyptian citizens are standing trial, while more than 2,500 people are still being detained in Egyptian prisons in connection with the Taba attacks.

Perhaps it's these mass arrests and the reports of torture practiced during interrogations of suspects in the Egyptian prisons that are the motive for the attack? Hundreds of Bedouin, whose family members were arrested after the October attacks, have held protest vigils in Cairo and, according to some Egyptian sources, have even threatened to take take revenge on the Egyptian government.

Attacking a tourist resort in Sinai is still a less complicated operation than carrying out an attack in the center of Cairo. The amount of ammunition and weapons that are available in Sinai and the ability to hide or to escape to areas that according to the Camp David accords are off limits to the military make things easier for the terrorists. This, the Egyptians say, is why they have not been able to lay their hands on a third suspect, Mohammad Ahmed Flayfil, who apparently escaped to the demilitarized zone.

The attack at Sharm el-Sheikh may turn out to have much greater economic consequences than the attack at Taba. Sharm, as opposed to Taba, receives many Arab tourists during Egypt's most important tourism season. Arab tourists, in contrast to Israeli or European tourists who tend to be thrifty, are a strong economic mainstay of the entire tourism sector. If the attack at Taba was perceived at the time as an attack against Israelis and tourists from other counties felt they were immune to attacks, the Sharm el-Sheikh events may reverse this trend and cause long-term damage to the Egyptian economy.