Israeli security officials say rockets that landed Friday in southern Israel were launched at the request of senior Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. The paper reports the timing was specifically engineered to coincide with elections taking place in Egypt this weekend:
According to these officials, the rockets were launched from the Sinai Peninsula by a Bedouin unit, according to Hamas orders, even though Hamas itself wasn't the initiator of the launching, but responded to the request of the Brotherhood, who wanted such an event on the eve of the second round of presidential elections in Egypt. It is yet unclear why the Brotherhood requested such an unusual action, a first military strike against Israel, or whether the strike was aimed at specific sites in the area.
An Egyptian security official denies the Grad rocket was fired from the Sinai Peninsula. On Sunday, the Egyptian newspaper al-Shuruq reported that Egyptian security forces arrested a suspected terror ring, including 22 Palestinians, Syrians and Jordanians who planned attacks against strategic targets in the Sinai in an attempt to destabilize the country during and after the election period.
If the Israeli security assessments are true about Brotherhood involvement, this would heighten the already grave concerns over the prospects of future peaceful relations between Israel and any Muslim Brotherhood-led government. As troubling: that its leaders may believe bellicose behavior will galvanize their electoral base.
Since the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak, serious questions have arisen about Egypt’s long-term commitment to the Camp David agreement with Israel and its warming relations with the terror group Hamas which is denying any involvement in the reported Egyptian-election machinations.
While the Muslim Brotherhood tries to project a moderate image to the West, for example by articulating it intends to uphold the peace treaty with Israel, Ha’aretz details recent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish statements by Brotherhood leaders on the campaign trail:
Still, in the buildup to the elections, Brotherhood speakers have been known to speak fiercely against Israel. In one gathering, in the beginning of May at El-Mahalla El-Kubra, Brotherhood leaders promised, in the presence of [presidential candidate Mohamed] Morsi, that the object of the Brotherhood is to liberate Jerusalem. The main speaker at that gathering, Sifwat Hijazi, said that Morsi would liberate Jerusalem and that the Brotherhood's dream was the creation of the "united Arab nations," with Jerusalem as its capital. "Our capital won't be Mecca or Medina, but Jerusalem, millions of shahids [martyrs] will march on the city" shouted Hijazi, "the whole world should know - and we say it clearly - our goal is Jerusalem, we shall pray in Jerusalem, and if not - we shall die as martyrs on its ruins." Another speaker that day said that "tomorrow Morsi will liberate Gaza." A singer sang: "The Jews will not be able to sleep, come, lovers of martyrs, you're all Hamas. Take on arms, and prepare for prayer."
The rocket attacks originating in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula have so far been rare compared to the barrage Israel frequently faces from Gaza. Last April, three Grad rockets were launched at the Israeli resort town Eilat and in August 2010, five Grad rockets killed a Jordanian citizen. Last August, the deadly terror attack on vacationers and soldiers in Eilat was launched from the Sinai as a co-production between local Sinai Islamist extremists and Palestinian “Popular Resistance Committees,” with no reported Muslim Brotherhood connection.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in April that the Sinai was becoming a “terror zone.” The Blaze reported last year on concerns the lawless vacuum in the Sinai desert was being exploited by terrorists.
Despite the controversial Muslim Brotherhood statements, the Obama administration has been holding meetings with various Brotherhood leaders including an April meeting at the White House and a January visit to Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo by U.S. ambassador to Egypt Ann Peterson to discuss relations between the two countries.