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Israel behind Eilat terror attack, according to Egyptian and PA media

Oren Kessler  |
Egypt’s press blames Israel for Eilat terror attack


Al-Ahram’ editorial: Resulting security crisis ‘premeditated’ by Jewish state, peace with Israel forced on Egyptian people.

The revolution that unseated Hosni Mubarak stoked hopes among Egypt-watchers that the country’s press might mature into a responsible force dedicated to informing citizens rather than merely inflaming or redirecting their anger.

But the Egyptian media’s collective response to this month’s terrorist attacks near Eilat – as in the wider Arabic press, one of almost unanimous justification, topped with allegations of Israeli complicity – suggest that goal is as far off as ever.

Eight Israelis, including six civilians, were killed and more than 30 were wounded in southern Israel on August 18 in a series of coordinated attacks launched from Gaza via the Sinai Peninsula.

Six Egyptian security personnel were killed in the crossfire as Israeli forces pursued the gunmen along the border. The attacks also prompted a series of IAF strikes at Hamas and Popular Resistance Committees outposts in Gaza, killing 15 people including four civilians.

Al-Ahram, the 126-year-old government mouthpiece that has Egypt’s largest circulation, ran an editorial last week accusing Israel of planning an assault on Egyptian soldiers.

“He errs who thinks that the events in Sinai were not premeditated by Israel and by terror organizations that have been infiltrated by the Israeli security apparatuses,” it said, according to a report released this weekend by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

The editorial said peace with the Jewish state was foisted upon the Egyptian people against its will and must be overturned: “The people, which never accepted the peace with [Israel]... will not be dragged [into] a stupid [deed] or into providing Israel with free excuses to be used against Egypt. What is certain is that Israel has opened the gates of hell for itself with its own hands.”

Peoples of the region, it said, must “pressure the Arab governments to remove all [manifestations] of normalization, return to the starting point, and end the pathetic farce called the peace process.”

Ahmad Abu Douh, a columnist for the privately owned Al-Dustour daily, wrote two days after the attack, “We cannot rule out that the attack in Eilat was carried out by Israel, considering that it coincided with the escalation of protests within Israel against the current government. This is why it was necessary to occupy public opinion in Israel and calm the atmosphere there.

“I think that the killing of the Egyptian soldiers was premeditated, and disagree with... those commentators who accept the [Israeli] account,” Abu Douh wrote, according to the MEMRI report.

The Palestinian and pan-Arab press offered similar assessments.

Adli Sadeq – a former PLO ambassador to India and a columnist for the Palestinian Authority’s official daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida – praised the attack as a “great operation.”

“May Allah have mercy upon the shahids [martyrs] who fell during Ramadan, those of them who went out to confront the occupation forces and did not return,” he wrote the day after the attack.

“What happened yesterday may be considered one of the most successful infiltration operations... this was a quality operation that will be difficult to repeat,” he wrote, according to the monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch. “A Palestinian – whether he sets off to infiltrate and have a confrontation or whether he is bombed in his home – is the oppressed victim in this situation, from beginning to end.”

Similarly, a news presenter for the Fatah-owned Filastin television channel said, “Naturally those who carried out the operation engaged the Israeli military forces in battle and those of them who were killed, died as shahid,” according to PMW.

PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed told the station, “It will come as no surprise to us if there will be clear intersection points between whoever carried out the operation and the Israeli government.”

A number of Palestinian commentators and officials deliberately distorted the Israeli death toll. Columnist Adel Abd al-Rahman wrote in Al-Hayat al-Jadida that the “operation” led to “the deaths of seven and the injury of approximately 30 officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers.”

Mustafa Barghouti, a former PA presidency candidate widely touted as a reformist, told Filastin, “This operation harmed soldiers and people from the Israeli army, and was not directed towards civilians.”

A Hayat al-Jadida news story read, “Armed men killed eight people in southern Israel yesterday, among them a soldier and a police officer... in three attacks along the border with Egypt. Israel responded with an air strike on Gaza, as a result of which six residents died as shahids... Washington and the European Union hurried to condemn the attacks in Eilat in the strongest terms, without addressing the massacre which the occupation carried out in a home in Rafah.”

No mention is made of the fact that the IAF strike targeted the home of the Popular Resistance Committees commander.

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-inchief of the London-based pan- Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote that Israel bore direct responsibility for the terrorist attack on its soil.

Referring to the attack as a fidai, or “self-sacrifice,” operation, he wrote, “This attack put the spotlight back on the most important struggle – that for the honor of the Arab and Islamic nation... Resistance is a legitimate right as long as land is occupied and the people and holy places are humiliated... Any democratic change that is born out of the Arab revolutions but does not embrace the resistance will be a partial and superficial change, incompatible with the principles of Arab and Muslim honor. Democratic revolution and resistance to the occupation are two parallel lines.

“The Eilat operation, as I see it, corrected the course of the Arab revolutions and refocused them on the most dangerous disease, namely the Israeli tyranny. This disease is the cause of all the defects that have afflicted the region for the past 65 years,” he wrote, according to the MEMRI report.

Born in Gaza, Atwan is a regular contributor to the BBC program Dateline London. In 2007, he told Lebanese television that should Iran strike Israel with nuclear missiles, “by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.”

The following year he wrote a column justifying the shooting attacks at Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva on March 6, 2008, which he described as “hatching Israeli extremists and fundamentalists.”

Atwan described the celebrations in Gaza following the attack, which killed eight students and wounded 11, as symbolizing “the courage of the Palestinian nation.”

Referring to the Egyptian servicemen’s death in his column last week, Atwan wrote, “The Israeli attack is not only an opportunity for the SCAF [military council] which rules Egypt to reopen the Camp David Accords and restore full Egyptian sovereignty to Sinai; it is also [a chance] to gradually revoke these accords in practice, as long as Israel is not committed to them.

"Israel's policy, which is directed toward, and even takes pleasure in, the abasement of the Arabs and Muslims ... is responsible for this operation and for all future operations of its kind. [This policy] is what killed the peace and sowed the seeds of extremism," he wrote.

"Whether Al-Qaida is behind the Eilat operation, or whether it is Palestinian or Arab groups that have adopted its ideology, it is the extremist right-wing Israeli government, and the Israeli people who elected it, that summoned Al-Qaida and prepared the ground for the seeds of extremism and for the enlistment of the frustrated and humiliated into its cells."