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Sunday, August 21, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Casualties mount at Gaza-Sinai border; Egypt demands 'official apology' from Israel

CAIRO — Egypt has sought to play down Palestinian attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and neighboring Israel while calling for an apology from Israel for the deaths of Egyptian border guards.


The casualties continued to mount when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near the Gaza-Sinai border on Aug. 19. At least one Egyptian officer was killed and another four were injured.

Israel has thus far acknowledged the killing of three Egyptian security officers, which prompted Cairo to withdraw its ambassador from the Jewish state. Officials said the Egyptians were caught in the cross-fire between Israel and Hamas-aligned gunmen on Aug. 18.

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"We demand an official apology," a senior Egyptian Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying by Egyptian state television.

Officials said Hamas-aligned attacks in eastern and southern Sinai on Aug. 18 have not affected the rest of the Egyptian peninsula. They said Egyptian security forces were protecting the large number of tourists in the area.

On Aug. 19, officials said Egyptian Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sami Anan arrived in Sinai and toured military outposts. They said Anan has ordered an investigation of the killing of five Border Guard officers in the clashes along the Gaza and Israeli borders.

"Egyptian Army and security bodies are monitoring what is taking place on borders and taking all necessary measure to protect coastal cities," South Sinai Gov. Maj. Gen. Khaled Fouda said on Aug. 20.

[The Egyptian assertion came amid escalated rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip on Israel. On Aug. 20, at least one Israeli was killed and 13 Israeli others injured amid missile and rocket salvos on Ashkelon and Beersheba.]

Fouda told Egyptian state television that the Palestinian attacks in eastern Sinai were not harming security. He said authorities remained in full control of the peninsula.

The statement on Aug. 19 came amid a spate of Palestinian attacks in which more than a dozen people were killed in less than 24 hours. During the previous day, eight Israelis were killed in a Hamas-aligned strike near the Israeli southern port city of Eilat.

Four of the suspected attackers, were killed by Israel and the Egyptian Army. An Al Qaida-aligned group, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has claimed responsibility, but Israel has identified the Hamas-aligned Popular Resistance Committees as having directed the operation.

The new military regime in Cairo has come under pressure from Israel and the United States to stop insurgency strikes from Sinai. But Egyptian officials said it remained uncertain whether the Palestinian squad came from Sinai amid the deployment of thousands of police and border guards throughout the peninsula.

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