Israeli Drone Strike Inside Sinai Shows a Growing, Sensitive Relationship
By Adam Entous and Charles Levinson for the Wall Street Journal
Israel and Egypt are quietly cooperating to quell Islamist militants along their border, Western officials say, a sensitive relationship illuminated by a deadly Israeli drone strike late last week inside Egyptian territory.
Israel's intervention in the Sinai Peninsula—which Egyptian officials denied, and which Israeli officials neither confirmed nor denied—would be the clearest manifestation of the high-level interaction between Israeli and Egyptian military and intelligence chiefs, according to the Western officials. Such cooperation between the U.S. allies has increased since last month's ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, these officials say.
Four Islamists from a little-known group calling itself Ansar Jerusalem were killed in the strike Friday, according to the group, which said the members had been preparing to fire rockets into southern Israel. The strike was conducted by Israel, according to Western officials.
The understanding on both sides is that Israel will take direct action only as a last resort if the Egyptians aren't in a position to stop an imminent threat from the Sinai, Western officials said. Such an Israeli intervention would be "very rare" because of Egyptian sensitivities, according to a senior Western official.
The arrangement shows the extent to which the Israeli and Egyptian militaries have closed ranks against militants massing on the peninsula. Heading west, militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades could target ships carrying oil through Egypt's Suez Canal. In the other direction lies Eilat airport in southern Israel.