Israel not after war in Sinai Peninsula

Related: Gaza Under Attack – in pictures

PressTV – Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:49PM GMT
Interview with Mukhaimer Abu Saada, professor at al-Azhar University

Israel mounted its attacks on the impoverished Gaza Strip shortly after accusing Gaza-based groups of taking part in the attack in the Red Sea resort of Eilat where eight Israelis were killed.

No Palestinian group, including the Hamas Resistance Movement which rules Gaza, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hamas has said that it had nothing to do with the assault and has warned against any act of aggression against the Gaza Strip.

Press TV talks with Mukhaimer Abu Saada, professor at al-Azhar University, to discuss the implications of Israel’s actions, Egypt’s position, and the possibility of this escalating into another war in the region or not.

Following is the text of the interview:

Press TV: Many say Israel had intelligence that an attack would take place, giving rise to speculation on Israel letting the attack happen given their gains?

Abu Saada: No, let me start by saying the following point. So far no Palestinian group and their resistance groups who are operating in the Gaza Strip have claimed any responsibility for the attack on the Israeli soldiers and Israeli territory in the city of Eilat.

In addition to that, Gaza is a very small place. Whenever someone is missing in such an operation, it will be known. So far no family in the Gaza Strip has mentioned that members of their family are absent or engaged in this attack.

So it seems to me that the Israeli intelligence has totally failed to basically know who is behind this attack. Maybe they had previous information that there was such an attack on Israeli soldiers or on the Israeli town of Eilat. But there are a number of questions.

As you mentioned, it seems to me that the Israeli Shabak, the Shin Bet, informed the army in a written letter as it was stated in the Israeli media that an attack was underway and the army received that letter.

Now why the army did not behave? Why the army waited until the last minute until the operation took place? This is a question that needs to be asked from the Israeli army and the Israeli military establishment.

And second, even though it seems to me that the attackers who came from Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula which is facing security problems, security vacuum over the past six months, it was illogical to blame the Palestinians and to start this wave of violence and escalation against the Gaza Strip as we have been witnessing over the past three days.

Press TV: Well, that is the point, isn’t it? I do not like to beat it to death but we can go back a number of years for example to 2006 when there was any type of security threat, Israel was quick to react on that same town, Eilat, and they said there was security threat, they would clear the area, there would not be any movement. But in this case and point, this did not happen.

It was the same type of pieces in terms of the town being the same and of course the threats coming from Sinai. So again that question comes about. I mean, what logical explanation could there be then?

Abu Saada: We know that this is a very complicated situation. If the army knew about this operation and did not act, I do not think that this is going to go without accountability, without someone asking the army and the military establishment why they did not act on time.

Unless Israel and the political leadership of Israel was interested in such attack to basically exploit such attack for internal consumption and we all know that Israel has been facing the largest protest in its history for the past month over the housing issue and the issue of rising prices for education and health and the deterioration of the middle class situation.

In addition to that, as it was mentioned in the report, Israel might also try to exploit this incident to undermine and complicate the Palestinians’ bid for statehood in less than a month.

As we all know, the Palestinian president is going to ask the UN to recognize Palestine as a full member of the UN in September 20 and maybe this is going to give Netanyahu enough time to launch a diplomatic attack on the Palestinians that the Palestinians do not deserve a state of their own as a result of the attack on Israeli soldiers and civilians in Eilat.

Press TV: Mr. Abu Saada, SCAF [Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] is pretty important to Israel but not to the Egyptians. What is the conclusion you can draw from that? And at the end why do you not tell us the warning from Egypt to Israel to stop attacking the Gaza Strip. I mean, it seems like Egypt is finally actually listening to the demands of Egyptians overall, isn’t it?

Abu Saada: Well, Israel is very well aware of the political changes in the region in general and in Egypt in particular. Since the collapse of the Mubarak regime six months ago, there have been new political developments in Egypt.

Now the Supreme Military Council is ruling Egypt and the Egyptian public opinion is not going to tolerate Israel attacks on Gaza or even Israelis targeting the Egyptian soldiers as we saw three days ago.

Therefore, Israel has quickly apologized for the death of the five Egyptian soldiers and officers in the operation that took place in Eilat three days ago and Israel has stated repeatedly that the Camp David peace agreement with Egypt is strategic to Israel and Israel would like to keep it and to secure it.

Let me add to that that Israel has already three enemies in the region: Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas and definitely Israel is not interested in adding another enemy on its southern border with Egypt and definitely the Israelis are trying to secure and to continue the Camp David peace agreement with the Egyptians as long as they can secure it…

Press TV: So why would the former head of Israel’s national security council actually come out and say there might be military action required for the Sinai Peninsula? I mean, doesn’t it sound and smell that they maybe are mulling an attack? And at the same time, a senior Israel’s defense official is saying that this treaty is a fundamental element of existence in the Middle East for Israel.

Abu Saada: Yes, as I mentioned to you, Israel at the official level is saying that the Camp David peace agreement is important; is strategic to Israeli interest and Israel has no interest to terminate this peace agreement with Egypt.

Now you might hear every now and then from Israeli nonofficial elements who are basically calling on the Israeli army to act and put an end to the security problem that is eliminating from the Sinai Peninsula but the most I have heard so far is that many Israelis are calling on the Israeli government and the Israeli army to take over the Philadelphi Route which is the border between Gaza and Egypt to put an end to the smuggling between Gaza and Egypt and to control the movement of individuals and probably militants between Gaza and Egypt.

It does not seem to me that there is no way that Israel is interested in provoking Egypt and the Egyptian people at this point in which Egypt is going through many political changes over the past six months.

As I mentioned to you, it could be nonofficial elements who are calling on the Israeli government and the Israeli army to act but definitely I doubt it that Israel is going to take any action in Sinai at this point.

Press TV: Tell us the repercussions that it is going to have for Gaza. We know that Israel has continued attacking Gaza. At this point, we know that up to 16 people have been killed. Are we looking at a scenario that is setting the stage for an all-out war perhaps? What do you think?

Abu Saada: Well, since the attack on Eilat, Israel has retaliated by killing 6 members of the popular resistance committees. They were top leaders who were assassinated in that operation on Thursday and since then Israel has mounted and bombarded different installations in the Gaza Strip, Qassam training centers and targeted other resistance groups.

But I am very much confident that the level of escalation that is taking place over the past three days is in no way similar to the full-fledged war Israel launched on Gaza two and a half years ago at the end of December 2008 and January 2009.

It seems to me that Israel was trying to retaliate and revenge for the Eilat attack but in the meantime Israel is not interested in provoking Hamas and the Palestinian resistance groups all the way which would mean a wider conflict.

On the other hand, Hamas also is not interested in a big war with Israel. Hamas has been silent for the past three days until today in which Al-Qassam Brigades launched a number of missiles on Israeli closer towns to the Gaza borders.

But Hamas has not launched missiles to major Israeli cities like Ashkelon or Ashdod or Beersheba. So it seems to me that the conflict that has been going on for the past three days is still under control.

It cannot be contained and neither Israel nor Hamas is interested in a full-fledged war at this point and I would imagine that with a third party intervention over the next few hours, this round of violence can be contained and stopped with the help of probably the Egyptian and other third parties.

Press TV: Correct me here if I am wrong but in Sinai there have still been attacks on Egyptian checkpoints by these armed groups and gangs. So the situation is not completely under control but aside from that, what would it take to tip the scale in terms of provocation that perhaps might lead Israel to make a decision to react? Do you think that is not a possibility?

Abu Saada: Well, we have to separate between Israeli attacks on Palestinians on the Gaza Strip and Israeli provocations of the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt has been asking Israel to stop its attacks on the Gaza Strip and to put an end to its aggression on the Gaza Strip but in the meantime it does not seems to me that Israel is interested in provoking the Egyptian army or the Egyptian people at this point.

Yes, there are some elements who are operating in the Sinai Peninsula but I think that there is a high level security cooperation that is taking place between the Egyptian army and the Israeli military establishment to contain the situation in the Sinai Peninsula and do not let it get out of control at this point.


Click here to watch the full video of the newsprogram (24 min)


Killed by Israeli Occupation 2011

How many more dead corpses of Palestinians does the international community need to see in order to act? How many more cruelties and violations of Human Rights, Regulations and International Law will be needed to intervene so this ongoing warcrime is being stopped once and for all?

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