One look at the map of the Middle East will tell the story – a giant threat to the air transport across a very wide area.
The Sinai desert – which is part of Egypt – has turned into the “greenhouse” of extreme Islamic terror. If Al-Qaeda is the buzzword for hundreds of independent terror groups across the world, they are all represented in the Sinai.
Since Egypt’s stability collapsed more than two years ago, this vast desert has lured thousands of terrorists – and they have accumulated a record number of shoulder-launched missiles and rockets.
Rocket fire from the Sinai prompted a rare, late-night alert in Eilat – the Israeli Red Sea resort – that sent residents and tourists scrambling for shelter at 01:00 on 13 August.
A single Grad rocket aimed at the city centre was shot down by an Israeli air force Iron Dome rocket interceptor battery that had been deployed near Eilat a month earlier, in response to another rocket threat.
Just five days before this attack, on 8 August, Eilat’s airport was shut down for several hours following an Egyptian army warning of a likely terror attack.
The group behind that earlier attack were killed in an aerial strike on 9 August. Foreign press claimed that an Israeli unmanned air system (UAS) performed the pinpoint strike.
The direct threat is on Israel. Steps are being taken to protect international and domestic flights to Eilat, but the threat is wider.
Security experts say the concentration of so many terrorists in an area that not really controlled by any regime has a “damage potential” that is not limited only to the desert.
Israeli sources say the almost total freedom of operation these groups have in the Sinai will urge them to stage attacks not only in the vicinity but in other places.
To sum it up, the terror concentration in the Sinai directly threatens aviation in southern Israel, Egypt and Jordan – but not only here. As one source puts it: “The thousands of shoulder-launched missiles and rockets will find potential targets.”
When terror reigns in a “no man’s land”, it is imperative to look at the threats not only from the cockpit window.