Three days after the attacks by gunmen outside Eilat in southern Israel, what do we know about the identities of the gunmen? Almost nothing.
In the mainstream media they are blithely referred to as “Palestinian gunmen” yet so far the only basis for this description is the unsubstantiated word of Israeli officials. Those officials have provided no real evidence to back up their claims.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to assign responsibility for the attacks with the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees yet both they and Hamas denied any involvement.
Generally speaking, Palestinian militant groups are not shy about claiming responsibility for attacks against Israelis — especially those that can be described as military operations where Israeli soldiers are killed or injured. Indeed, the problem is more often that too many groups — not too few — want to claim the honor.
This suggests a rather obvious explanation about why no Palestinian group announced that it directed the attacks: it wasn’t a Palestinian operation.
The Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson refused to endorse Netanyahu’s assertion about the PRC role and the only “proof” of Palestinian involvement the IDF presented was the use of Kalashnikovs — as though 100 million Kalashnikovs, 20% of the firearms available on the planet, are now stockpiled in Gaza!
What other evidence is there about the gunmen? They were wearing Egyptian military uniforms.
Just before the Eilat attacks, Egyptian security forces declared Operation Eagle — an effort to bring security to the lawless Sinai — a success.
Deputy Interior Minister Ahmad Gamal Eddin said at a press conference last week that the campaign has so far managed to arrest members of al-Takfeer wal-Hijra and to collect arms and illegally acquired military uniforms.
Militant Salafists based in the Sinai are believed to have been periodically blowing up the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline this year. They are well-armed and possess Egyptian military uniforms. Were they behind the Eilat attacks? It seems a bit more plausible than the IDF’s Kalashnikov-based analysis.
Meanwhile, Hamas has once again agreed to take the lead in enforcing a ceasefire with Israel.
A Hamas official in Gaza says that all of Gaza’s militant groups have agreed to a cease-fire aimed at ending a three-day round of violence with Israel.
The official says Egypt helped broker the cease-fire, which will go into effect this evening. He says Egypt told the groups that Israel would halt its airstrikes only if the Palestinian groups stopped shooting first, and that Hamas security personnel would enforce the agreement.
He spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because the agreement had not officially been made public.
Earlier on Sunday, AP reported that Israeli officials arrived in Cairo. Moreover, Israeli sources confirmed that the reduced IDF strikes on Gaza in the last 24 hours was an intentional move aimed at allowing Egypt to mediate a cease-fire, as well as out of fear for the defense and diplomatic relationship with Egypt.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a harsh warning to those responsible for the latest rocket fire on southern Israel, saying those who act against Israel “will have their heads separated from their bodies.”
Thus speaks Israel’s own Salafist military commander.