TEL AVIV – Israel is readying itself for the possibility that Islamic State forces will cross the border from Sinai into Israel.
IS has been combating Egyptian forces in the Sinai for some time; as a result the IDF is now preparing for the threat posed by the terror group – especially to the country’s southern towns.
An attempt to plant explosives on the Israeli border on Wednesday is likely the work of a small IS-affiliated jihadist group in the Gaza Strip.
IDF Southern Command has reportedly updated its war plans three times in accordance with the potential threat. One of the changes includes more focus on urban areas and protecting southern agricultural farms from infiltration by IS.
In addition, the number of IDF troops along the border has been greatly reinforced. Jeeps and Humvees have been equipped with rooftop machine guns, and tanks and artillery have been expanded throughout the area. Joint army and air force drills are also being conducted.
The IDF Caracal Battalion (Battalion 33, an integrated infantry unit in which women and men serve alongside each other) has dedicated much of the past year to training for the threat posed by IS. The change has been defined as “improving lethality.”
“The bottom line is that IS isn’t right outside our gates yet; it’s concentrating its forces fighting against the Egyptians; but that’s out of choice,” said a senior IDF official, “In the last six months, the Egyptians have gone through a maturation process. They grew to understand that the rules have changed, meaning it’s no longer armies fighting each other, but an army facing a terror organization.”
“We in the IDF have improved our lethality. We also understand that the threat has changed, and have made moves that will answer the blows that have yet to land. All along the 220 kilometer border, we’ve significantly improved our defensive array before the enemy even moves toward us. This shift is expressed in all fields, according to the threats faced,” he added.
While Hamas cooperates with IS jihadists in Sinai, it represses their counterparts in Gaza in the hopes of safeguarding its rule, keeping Gaza out of the line of fire, and maintaining access to weapons in the Sinai Peninsula.