In an unprecedented move, Egyptian aircraft have entered Israeli airspace while en route to attack ISIS affiliates in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on several occasions in recent months, Ynet revealed on Tuesday.
The fighter jets, which flew through Israel’s airspace in order to bomb ISIS targets in the El Arish and Sheikh Zuweid regions of the northern Sinai, likely did so with the knowledge and permission of the IDF, as the violations garnered no response from the military.
It is probably the first time since Egyptian fighter pilots flew into Israel as enemies during the 1973 Yom Kippur War that Egypt’s air force has entered Israeli airspace.
The flights mostly took place in the triangular border area between Israeli territory, Egyptian territory, and the southern Gaza Strip.
Israel first started to allow Egypt to enter the Sinai from Israel’s easternmost border about four years ago, when Islamist forces began to grow in strength and clashes with the Egyptian military in the region became more frequent. The permission was given in accord with the military clause of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.
The Egyptian forces have used this permission to strike terrorist targets in the area with fighter planes and helicopters. Some of their targets are located mere kilometers away from the Israeli border.
The ISIS-affiliated terror group in the Sinai is estimated to number at least 8,000 members, and is one of ISIS’s most effective offshoots in the Middle East, attacking Egyptian military forces almost daily and killing dozens of security forces monthly. In October, it claimed to have brought down a Russian airliner in the region.
The mode of operation for the Sinai-based ISIS group makes gathering intelligence on their actions and plans difficult, as it rarely uses phones or computers and acts more as a group of individual terror cells than as an organized force. Recently, the IDF and Israel’s intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, have begun to increase efforts to gather intelligence on the Egyptian border.