Israeli Strikes in Egypt Kept Secret for Years

Over a hundred bombings and invasions did not weaken ISIS in Sinai

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Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES: About one month before the presidential elections in Egypt, the Egyptian military launched a massive operation in the Western Desert, in the Nile Delta and in the Sinai Peninsula. All possible challengers to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi withdrew their candidacy or were somehow arrested, leaving only one challenger.

Moussa Mostafa Moussa announced his candidacy on the last possible day. He is relatively unknown and is the head of the Ghad Party, which has so far supported el-Sisi. It is widely believed that he is only running in order to create the impression of democracy in Egypt.

el-Sisi’s election victory may be guaranteed, but people have not forgotten that when he took over in a coup in 2013 from former president Mohamed Morsi, he did so while calling Morsi soft on terror and promising to create security for Egyptians by using his expertise as the commander in chief of the Egyptian military.

So, what is el-Sisi’s contribution to security? The New York Times exposed that the Israeli Air Force conducted more than a hundred strikes in Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula. Richard Silverstein, author of the blog, Tikun Olam criticizes the New York Times report.

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN: Well, to begin with, David Kirkpatrick, who wrote the New York Times piece, has relied pretty much solely on US intelligence sources to compile his report. And because he did that, he ignored Israeli media reports on Israeli activity in Sinai and he missed the whole bigger picture.

SHARMINI PERIES: The New York Times claim that Israel attacked ISIS targets in Sinai in order to help el-Sisi’s administration in Egypt.

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN: These US intelligence sources told him that the Israeli alliance with Egypt against ISIS in Sinai started in 2015, and that’s not the case at all. It goes back to a major terrorist attack by ISIS against Israel in 2011. In 2011 and later in 2012, Israel decided, because of this threat to itself, to help Egypt attack ISIS in Sinai because it believed that ISIS was a threat to Israel.

SHARMINI PERIES: In 2013, el-Sisi declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN: It turns out that el-Sisi is a convenient ally for Israel because he is a military strongman, and Israel tends to like those sorts of authoritarian leaders, but the participation really started with the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi.

SHARMINI PERIES: The New York Times reports that Israeli Air Force used unmarked planes and drones to attack Sinai in circling of an attack vector from the west in order to disguise the fact that those were Israeli weapons.

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN: There is at least one incident where the Mossad collaborated with Egyptian intelligence to kidnap a Palestinian in Sinai, arrest him, and bring him back to Israel, where he was tried for security offenses. There also were Israeli forays into Sinai to intercept African refugees before they completed the border fence.

SHARMINI PERIES: In November 2017, ISIS attacked a mosque in Northern Sinai in what is described as the worst terror attack in the history of Egypt, killing 311 people. Although ISIS sent threats to the mosque before the attack, Egyptian security was taken completely by surprise.

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN: I do believe, though, that if Israel had advance warning through its own SIGINT intelligence, Unit 8200 of the IDF is the one that engages in that sort of activity, it probably would’ve shared that information with the Egyptian military.

SHARMINI PERIES: What seems to be the common belief of the Israeli and Egyptian governments is that brute force is the only tool for achieving political goals.