Were the Eilat gunmen Egyptian?

I’m not sure how much play this has gotten in the Egyptian media, but the 21 September of the large-circulation Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth ran a story saying that the Israeli government’s investigation into the Eilat attack revealed the perpetrators were Egyptians — including a serving police officer. The Egyptians are said to have rejected these findings.

Obviously it’s not conclusive — right now it’s just a leak to a local paper — but this might indicate the arguments the Israelis will be making to the Egyptians (and Americans) in the month ahead. It plays into the poor security situation in Sinai and the fear that it might turn into a jihadist training ground.

There are several things worth bearing in mind in this:

  • Israel originally said they were Palestinians and used this as a pretext to bombard Gaza. They still claim the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees of Gaza were the people behind this, subcontracting the job to Sinai-based Egyptians. How that works I’m not sure.
  • This boosts the Egyptian argument for greater military presence in Eastern Sinai — or would if they accepted the premise of the report.
  • As the Yediot report notes, this now gives the Israelis ammo to push the Egyptians, who are pushing back with the killing of Egyptian border guards that followed the Eilat attack.
  • More generally, it raises questions about the radical Islamist groups known to be operating in Central Sinai, how they might be countered, and what the Egyptian military is doing about it through its “Operation Eagle” launched in August. Or indeed, even the possibility that the group was not Islamist all — an outlier possibility.

The full text of the report, translated from the original Hebrew by Israel News Today, is below.

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