May 18, 2024
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Islamic State Affiliate Fires Rockets Into Israel’s South From Sinai

Three rockets were fired from Sinai into Israel’s Eshkol region, causing no injuries or damage but suggesting an escalation. Islamic State affiliate Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province) claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

In a statement posted on Twitter by Wilayat Sinai supporters, the group said it had launched three Grad rockets toward “occupied Palestine.” It also said Israel was supporting the Egyptian regime and claimed that Israeli aircraft had joined Egyptian warplanes in bombing its fighters.

Sinai terrorists, including those from Wilayat Sinai—formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis—have fired rockets into Israel from Sinai on several occasions in the past.

“It is a very bad feeling,” said Avner Cohen, an Eshkol resident, after the explosions. “This situation is becoming intolerable. We cannot ignore this. We cannot keep our mouths shut. This is a reality that we must not accept.”

Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said Saturday that “I trust the military and I am convinced that they will take all the necessary steps to protect all of Israel’s southern communities. I expect the political echelon to take swift action on all levels to ensure a calm summer in the State of Israel.”

It was possible the launch was linked to the fighting in Sinai, an Israeli military source said, where the Wilayat Sinai group launched its biggest assault in years against Egyptian security forces on Wednesday.

Dozens of people have been killed in clashes and airstrikes in the desert region.

The Israeli military on Friday closed a southern highway, part of which runs along the Egyptian border, as a safety precaution.

A tense calm was felt over the weekend in the southern city of Eilat, located near the Egyptian border.

In Egypt, meanwhile, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, wearing battle dress for the first time in over a year, said Saturday that Egypt had foiled an attempt by the Islamic State group to seize territory and set up an extremist state with its recent assault on the military in the troubled northeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

In combat fatigues he had said he hung up for good when he ran for president, the general-turned-politician met members of the army and delivered a televised speech to troops in Sinai, his first public comments on Wednesday’s unprecedented attack.

The group had tried to announce “an Islamic state, in their concept, an Islamic State in Sinai,” he said. “These are the messages, very simply, that they are putting out to us,” adding that the area was now under control.

El-Sissi praised the troops for “foiling a very big plan.”

“No one can impose on the Egyptians something they don’t want,” he said. “To reach the Egyptians they have to pass through the army, the sons of Egypt.”

The army said 17 soldiers and over 100 militants were killed in Wednesday’s brazen attack in Sinai, although before the release of its official statement, several senior security officials from multiple branches of Egypt’s forces in the area had said that scores more troops also died in the fighting.

The assault came in a week of bloodletting that saw Egypt’s prosecutor general assassinated outside his Cairo home by a massive car bomb, and a special forces raid on an apartment that killed nine members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood responded by calling for a “rebellion,” raising the prospect of a further uptick in violence.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry blamed all the past week’s violence on the Brotherhood, which it said was not only the main source of Islamic extremism, but also coordinated operations on the ground.

“All of these attacks were conducted days apart, and showed a level of sophistication and coordination that affirms the presence of organized terrorist activity perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood,” it said in a statement given to reporters on Saturday.

Egypt routinely blames the Muslim Brotherhood for violent attacks in the country.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the timing of the recent attacks make the associations between the Brotherhood and Islamic State extremists “apparent.”

“This is a matter of motives… I, as I think any Egyptian on the street, will make the educated presumption that this was perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of the [online] sites of Muslim Brotherhood rejoiced at the fact,” he said.

In Sinai, violence continued Saturday. A bomb exploded next to a power station in Sheikh Zuweid, killing two workers and injuring another, security officials said.

In Rafah, a city on the border with the Gaza Strip, they said a roadside bomb exploded near a civilian home Saturday, killing a child and wounding four others. Officials spoke anonymously because regulations did not permit them to release the information otherwise.

By Israel Hayom

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