Israel’s Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said on Tuesday that a cell of more than 10 militants is dwelling in Sinai ahead of a plan to attack Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“Islamic Jihad is trying for a long time to perpetrate the attacks from the Sinai and the Eid al-Fitr is a good time for attacks. The defense establishment has concrete intelligence regarding plans by a terror cell from the Sinai consisting of more than 10 people,” Vilnai was quoted as saying by the Post.
Israel’s warning follows rising alerts after eight Israelis were killed in Eilat when militants – who allegedly crossed in from Sinai – attacked the area on 18 August.
Israeli forces have been touring the border area and, on the same day of the attack, crossed into Egypt and killed five Egyptian officers in friendly fire. The event spurred a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
“This morning we are on high alert in the south, against a possible attack, similar in part to the attack which occurred 10 days ago. Readiness is very high. We are determined to strike at those carrying out the attacks, to take action as much as possible to intercept the attack and we are reiterating that responsibility stems from the Gaza Strip. It is not just Islamic Jihad but also Hamas,” the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying.
Israel reinforced its border presence on Monday, according to the Post and other Israeli media, and informed the Egyptian military of its new deployment. Israeli roads running alongside the border were also closed in anticipation of potential attacks.
Haaretz also reported defensive preparations in case attackers launch their strikes from the Gaza Strip through a tunnel. Israeli forces also strengthened their naval presence in the Gulf of Eilat in case attacks are launched from the Red Sea Front.
Haaretz added that it is rare that such intelligence information is leaked to the media, but it is perhaps meant to preempt the militants.
The Post reported that Israel is restraining itself from taking action against the Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza by not launching a high-scale campaign in the area, in respect for Egypt’s interim rulers.
(www.almasryalyoum.com / 30.08.2011)