Israel makes common cause with Egypt after attacks

Daily Star Egypt Staff
4 Min Read

JERUSALEM: Israel looked to make common cause with the Egyptian government against Islamist extremists Tuesday after the latest Sinai bombings, having warned for months about possible attacks in the region. In a late night phone call to President Hosni Mubarak, Israel s acting premier Ehud Olmert offered condolences and any assistance required in the aftermath of the triple bombings in Dahab which have left at least 23 dead. A brief statement from Olmert s office also emphasized that the two leaders, whose countries have had an often frosty relationship, had discussed the need to cooperate in the struggle against global terrorism. It is 24 years to the day that Israel formally handed back control of the Sinai to Egypt, having captured the sparsely populated Red Sea peninsula in the 1967 Six Day War. However, the resorts which dot the coast remain a popular destination for Israeli holidaymakers, and more than 1,500 were believed to be in the Sinai on Monday despite long-standing government travel warnings sparked over fears that Al-Qaeda agents were active in the area. Brigadier General Danny Arditi, head of Israel s anti-terror unit, voiced fears back in October that followers of Osama bin Laden s militant network had infiltrated the Gaza Strip from Sinai in the weeks after the Israeli army withdrew its troops from the Palestinian territory. Ranaan Gissin, a spokesman in the prime minister s office, said that the governments in Israel, Egypt and Jordan shared a common interest. Today, there is no such thing as local terrorism, he told AFP. The Sinai peninsula in the past was an area from where conventional attacks against Israel were launched but now it is the favored turf of international terrorists, a soft spot for attacks against Egypt, Jordan and Israel with the backing of Palestinian terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip. Relations between the Israel and Egypt have seen something of an upturn in the last couple of years with Cairo playing a growing role as a mediator in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Both governments also recognize that, whatever their differences on other issues, Islamist extremism is a common threat. An analysis in Israel s top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily said that although the Jewish state had so far escaped an attack by Al-Qaeda, intelligence officials were not resting on their laurels. Conventional wisdom has it that the increased activity of Al-Qaeda and global jihad in the Middle East has raised the level of risk to Israel, if not in its own territory than in heated attempts to attack Israeli targets abroad, it said. Yediot said that Israeli intelligence officials had grown to respect the judgment of their counterparts, admitting that original Egyptian theories about the other Sinai attacks in Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh had been proved right. Yigal Palmor, a senior official in the Israeli foreign ministry, said that the threat posed by the likes of Al-Qaeda meant that countries had to present a united front. There is a phenomenon of international terrorism which goes well beyond what happened yesterday and there is an urgent need for international cooperation to combat this threat, Palmor told AFP. Unless a concerted effort is made, we won t be able to curb this phenomenon which respects no borders. AFP

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