Defense minister: Islamic State in Sinai ‘not a serious threat’
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Defense minister: Islamic State in Sinai ‘not a serious threat’

After 2 rockets fired from peninsula, Liberman says jihadist group's affiliate 'not even a terror group' compared to Hamas, Hezbollah

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to the press during a visit to the West Bank settlement of Ariel on February 1, 2017. (Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to the press during a visit to the West Bank settlement of Ariel on February 1, 2017. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday dismissed the threat posed by the Islamic State terror organization’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula.

Speaking after two rockets believed to be launched by the group landed in Israel, he said he does not consider IS’s so-called “Sinai Province” to be “a serious threat.”

The firing of the two rockets, which struck an open field in southern Israel and did not cause any damage or injuries, was not claimed by any group, but came shortly after the Islamic State affiliate accused Israel of killing five of its operatives in an airstrike Saturday.

Liberman said that while IS in Sinai is “annoying” and “hindersome,” it does not possess the means to pose a serious threat to Israel’s security.

One of two rockets fired at southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula on February 20, 2017. It struck in an open field near the Naveh community. (Israel Police)
One of two rockets fired at southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula on February 20, 2017. It struck in an open field near the Naveh community. (Israel Police)

“If you are talking about Hamas and Hezbollah then [IS’s Sinai force] is not even a terror group,” he told Army Radio, describing the group’s capabilities as “random [amateurs] who decide to build themselves an army.”

Illustrative: smoke rises after an airstrike in the Sinai city of Rafah as seen from Gaza on July 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Illustrative: Smoke rises after an airstrike in the Sinai city of Rafah as seen from Gaza on July 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“We need to see everything in proportion,” he added.

When asked if Israel was behind the Saturday airstrike in the Sinai, Liberman seemed to confirm the suspicion with a sarcastic response.

“Like always, the special forces of Lichtenstein probably took out a few terrorists from Daesh in Sinai,” he said, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State.

“We do not let anything go without a response,” he said.

The reported drone strike Saturday came after the Islamic State fired four rockets earlier this month at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in southern Israel.

Three of those four rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, seeming to indicate they would have struck the city, as the IDF’s policy is to only shoot down rockets headed towards population centers and infrastructure.

The fourth rocket landed in an open field.

Illustrative. Islamic State's affiliate Sinai Province at weapons training, February 6, 2016. (Telegram.me/HaiAlaElJehad5 via MEMRI)
Illustrative. Islamic State’s affiliate Sinai Province at weapons training, February 6, 2016. (Telegram.me /HaiAlaElJehad5 via MEMRI)

Despite having focused the vast majority of its efforts waging a bloody insurgency against the Egyptian Army in recent years, the Sinai Province has long used saber-rattling and small scale attacks against Israel to boost its credentials.

The group was formerly known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis — meaning “Supporters of Jerusalem” — before switching its allegiance from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State in 2014 and changing its name to Sinai Province, highlighting the importance the group places on railing against Israel as part of its propaganda efforts.

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