Israeli Border Town Undeterred by Sinai Attacks

By Marlene-Aviva Grunpeter
Marlene-Aviva Grunpeter
Marlene-Aviva Grunpeter
August 30, 2013 Updated: August 30, 2013

EILAT, Israel—For decades the border between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has been unusually calm in an otherwise deeply troubled region. But amid the unrest in Egypt and the rise in militant attacks in Sinai, that border is now becoming a potential hot spot for violence.

Several missile attacks hit the Israeli southern resort city of Eilat this month. Most of the missiles caused minor damage. One was intercepted after the deployment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

According to the Israeli Defense Army (IDF), the jihadi group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attacks. 

Located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, the city of Eilat is home to nearly 50,000 residents and is visited by approximately 2.8 million people annually. 

Eilat’s mayor, Izhak Levy, told the Epoch Times “We try to keep ‘business as usual,’ we don’t want to play into the hands of the terrorist groups in Sinai. I hope the Egyptian army will take control of the situation.”

When asked whether hotel reservations have been canceled due to the attacks, Levy said that most of the tourists in the summer are Israeli, whom he believes adapt more easily to tighter security than tourist from abroad.

“We will see in autumn and winter if it will have an impact on the tourism from Europe,” he said.

A Red Sea Jazz festival that took place on Aug. 18 to 21, just one week after the last missile attack, continued as usual. Only one group of musicians, scheduled to perform at the festival, canceled. 

Astrid Stark a tourist from Mulhouse, France, was at the Jazz festival. She said, “I dreamed all year about these four festival days. … I decided to take the risk.”

Aliza a tourist from the kibbutz, Kfar Blum, near the border between Israel and Lebanon, also attend the festival.

“A few years ago the Lebanon border was hot. We slept a longer time in the shelter than in our home. Today it is Eilat that is on a dangerous border. We must go on,” she said.

After the Egyptian army ousted the Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi on July 3, there have been militant attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula almost every day. 

Suspected militants killed 25 Egyptian policemen on Aug. 19, highlighting the increased volatile situation as the Egyptian army struggles to keep control over a politically divided country.

IDF spokesman Yoav Mordechai said in a radio broadcast that Israel is well prepared to respond to the increased security threat in the Sinai Peninsula.

Speaking on the same broadcast on an army-run radio station, former national security adviser Dani Arditi, said that the Israeli Security Services established a “special brigade to deal with Sinai.”

According to Arditi, the Israeli operations would not violate its long-standing peace treaty with Egypt, preventing it from carrying out operations in Sinai.

“The intelligence gathering can be done via satellites, observations and sensors,” Arditi said. His opinion is that Israel should not attack an Islamist squad when detected even with permission from Egypt. He said, “The best means to prevent attacks to Israel from Sinai is the Egyptian army.”

Marlene-Aviva Grunpeter
Marlene-Aviva Grunpeter