Egypt Asserts New Dynamic After Clashes With Israel

Originally published on August 30, 2011 2:02 pm
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POST: Violence along the border area of Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip did not begin with action by the Israeli military, as the introduction states. Rather, the clash began when gunmen crossed from the Egyptian desert and launched a series of attacks in southern Israel. Israel responded with strikes along the Egyptian border and inside Gaza.]

DAVID GREENE, Host:

Joining us now to discuss this is James Hider, the Middle East correspondent for the London Times. He's speaking to us from Jerusalem. Welcome to the program.

M: Morning.

GREENE: James, let's start by rewinding the events. Let's rewind this incident late last week that set off this round of tensions. There were the killings of five Egyptian security officers.

M: And they shot up a passenger bus. They shot up a car with four people inside - civilians - and they ended up killing eight Israelis. And there was a fairly extended gun battle between Israeli security forces and these Palestinian militants. And when they were trying to flee back across the border, the survivors, it was quite a big (unintelligible) - about 15 to 20 people - the Egyptians were trying to stop them and the Israelis were pursuing them. It's not a particularly well-marked border. And in their Apache helicopter, they managed to shoot five of these Egyptian security forces.

GREENE: All through Hosni Mubarak's rule in Egypt, you know, we heard there was this delicate peace maintained with Israel. How would things have been different if Mubarak were still in power?

M: Egypt is run by a military counsel of his generals. And while they want to maintain the status quo - they're not interested in starting anything here - but they are very sensitive to what is going on on the street, because they saw the revolution that swept away their boss, and there's a lot of anti-Israeli sentiment on the streets of Cairo at the moment.

GREENE: Including coming from Egyptian politicians. I mean, there's been a lot of anti-Israel rhetoric.

M: Amr Moussa himself said, you know, the days when Israel could kill our sons are long gone. So it's become a much more hostile tone amongst Egyptian politicians.

GREENE: That's a pretty powerful statement. I mean, is it possible that the Camp David accords and the peace it created - I mean, is that all in danger at this point?

M: I think there is a danger that populist forces in Egypt will be playing with that with the elections ahead, and I think that is extremely dangerous because it has been the foundation of Israel's security for the past three decades. And in effect, all the peace in the Middle East depends on that agreement.

GREENE: We've been speaking to James Hider of the Times of London. James, thank you.

M: Thanks very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.