A general view of the Monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt's south Sinai, where a policeman was killed and three others wounded on April 18, 2017 when gunmen opened fire, in an attack claimed by Islamic State jihadists
Israeli military forces are quietly conducting operations to counter the threat of Islamic State terrorists along the Sinai border area with Egypt, according to senior Israeli defense officials who described ISIS as the “most quickly advanced threat we've ever had.”
ISIS terrorists have been locked in what Israeli military officials described as an “ongoing war” along Sinai Peninsula, as they attempt to wrench control of the key territory along Israel's southern border from Egyptian hands.
The daily battle, which has received little coverage in the Western media, has become a chief concern for Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) personnel operating along the Jewish state's southern border, eclipsing even Hamas terrorists in the region.
Officials estimate that there are anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 “active members of ISIS” operating in the Sinai region, a sizable force in an area that is largely lawless and has been seen as a primary terrorism tension point for some time. ISIS orchestrates terror attacks nearly every day of the week along the border, Israeli military officials disclosed.
With the rise of ISIS—an extremely well-funded and inter-connected network of some of the globe's most vicious Islamic terrorists—the threat along the Sinai has significantly increased, becoming a primary focus for the IDF, which has been conducting intelligence gathering and military operations in a bid to prevent ISIS terrorists from crossing the Israeli border.
“ISIS is the most quickly advancing threat we've ever had,” one IDF officer working in the region told the Washington Free Beacon. “The rate with which they advance in resources and both capabilities and civil military training far outweighs and outpaces” the threats posed by Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.
“There is what can be considered an ongoing almost war in the Sinai Peninsula now,” said the officer, who was not authorized to speak on record when discussing Israeli operations to counter ISIS.
“Not a day goes by where there is not an attack against the Egyptian army or Egyptian civilians by the faction of ISIS that is in the Sinai Peninsula,” the official disclosed.
ISIS conducts anywhere from five to seven terror attacks per week in the region, including sniper attacks, road side mine attacks on Egyptian military convoys, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, the official said.
ISIS terrorists in Sinai also are in possession of advanced military technology, such as anti-tank missiles, mortars, and long-range rockets, according to Israeli assessments.
“We're talking about 10 casualties a week” as a result of ISIS, according to the Israeli military official.
One senior Trump administration official praised Israel's efforts to combat ISIS, telling the Free Beacon that the president is encouraged by the Jewish state's renewed efforts to work with Egypt and other Arab nations that often have had chilly relations with Israel.
“Of course it benefits the United States when our close partners and allies like Israel increase their capacity to defeat ISIS—but Israel's long experience combating terrorism is also one of the things that is bringing Israel closer to our Arab friends in the region,” the administration official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon. “That was one of the key messages from President Trump's recent trip.”
Despite the amount of violence in the contested border region, the Western media has largely ignored the battle.
The threat of ISIS has fostered increased cooperation between Israeli and Egyptian military officials.
Israeli military officials are conducting scores of intelligence gathering operations along the border in conjunction with Egyptian officials, sources said.
Israeli officials enjoy a very good working relationship with the Egyptian army, sources said.
Israel also has offered Egypt various military technologies to help combat the threat.
ISIS is a particularly nefarious terror force that wholly embraces violence, making it more dangerous than even Hamas and Hezbollah, which tend to be more calculated in how and when they sponsor terrorism.
“Both Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon have outgrown being regular terrorist organizations and are almost governments,” the military official explained. “ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula has not reached that level yet so they have a lot less to lose and lot more to gain by carrying out bolder and stronger terrorist attacks. They most definitely have more of an edge.”
ISIS's ability to galvanize support over the internet on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube has made it a particularly virulent threat.
ISIS operatives routinely conduct intelligence-gathering operations using Facebook and other social media sites. Terrorist operatives are known to pose as Israeli and attempt to strike up online relationships with military personnel and other officials.
ISIS also is locked in a battle with Egyptian smugglers who have long operated a drug trade along the Sinai border. The terror group is attempting to wrest control of the trade from the smugglers who deal in drugs.
The money helps to fund ISIS's operations, but could also arm them with highly coveted smuggling routes that would enable the group to funnel arms and even terrorist forces into Israeli territory.
“This is one of the major issues and struggles going on right now,” according to the Israeli military official. “That's the major fear of the Israeli military down south, this skirmish going on between ISIS and the Bedouin smugglers. When it comes to a head we'll suddenly start seeing a lot less hashish and heroin, and a lot more guns and even road side bombs right on the border.”