The lessons of the deadly Egyptian cross-border attack

by Yaakov Lappin

Days after a rogue Egyptian policeman killed three Israeli soldiers, the IDF is reviewing all aspects of its Egypt border security protocols.

(JNS) Days after the three Israeli soldiers were killed by a rogue Egyptian police officer in a cross-border terror attack, the Israel Defense Forces is reexamining all aspects of its security and operation protocols along the 128 mile border.

The review encompasses all IDF activities along the border, starting at the micro-tactical level—including the 12-hour guard shifts that members of the Caracal (Wildcat) and Bardelas (Cheetah) co-ed territorial battalion members reportedly had to endure.

Disturbingly, former soldiers have gone on record on social media as stating that some shifts lasted even longer, even up to 17 hours.

The lack of adequate change-overs of personnel stationed at the border posts is a closely related tactical problem, as is the number of soldiers stationed at each post. The practice of stationing only two soldiers per position looks likely to be phased out.

The lack of set radio contact and communications checks now appears to have been a localized issue and not one that affected the entire brigade.

A central focus of the review is likely to be what commanders feel is a dangerous sense of complacency that set in within the 80th (Edom) Division and the Paran Brigade that are responsible for securing the Egyptian border.

That complacency, it appears, stemmed from the frequent successes that IDF units in the area had, with police cooperation, in combating cross-border narcotics trafficking from the Sinai Peninsula.

With drug smugglers seeing their chances of successful runs drop from 50% to 20% in 2021, and with over 500 smuggling attempts successfully thwarted or disrupted last year, it seems that laxity set in.

At the wider, strategic-conceptual level, the review must reexamine assumptions about the danger of Egyptian security personnel going rogue.  

While this is the last scenario Egyptian military and police commanders want, and while Israel and Egypt both continue to benefit from reported cooperation against Islamic State and drug smugglers, future Egyptian screening failures can’t be ruled out.

Mohammed Salah Ibrahim, the border guard from Cairo who killed Sgt. Lia Ben-Nun, 19, Staff Sgt. Uri Iluz, 20 and Staff Sgt. Ohad Dahan, 20, had reportedly complained to his superiors about his duties, and had posted social media posts during past escalations between Gazan terror factions and Israel. “Allah is with Palestine,” he wrote during one such post, providing a clue into his motivations, according to a report on Monday by Kan 11.

The ease with which the terrorist was able to cross through an emergency passage through the security fence, in which plastic fasteners formed the only obstacle, is also up for immediate review.

These changes will enable the IDF’s Border Defense units, which includes the territorial battalions on the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, to optimize their operations, while continuing to free up the IDF’s other divisions for essential combat training.

The fact that the border defense units are permanently stationed along these areas means that other units have more time to train, and in the event of a war, the divisions dubbed “spearpoint” by the IDF would be the ones to cross into enemy territory without needing to deal with defending other areas.  

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