Last week, Egypt deployed about 2,500 additional troops and 250 armored vehicles to Sinai. In February, Israel gave Egypt’s army permission to send up to four battalions into Sinai even though the 1979 peace treaty technically prohibits such deployments.
“For some years, Israeli authorities have expressed concerns that al Qaeda has been able to establish a presence in the Sinai with criminal elements among the Bedouins,” said Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies and an analyst on al Qaeda.
Mr. Hoffman added that “we know that Salafists have been active in terms of recruitment in the Gaza.”
Israel said one of a small group of terrorist cells known as the Popular Resistance Committees is responsible for the attack. The cells were formed in 2000 in Gaza by some members of the Palestinian party Fatah to fight Israel in what is known as the second intifada.
The committees have worked with Hamas. In 2006, the group took partial responsibility for the kidnapping of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who is thought to be held by Hamas.
In June 2006, according to the Associated Press, Israel’s air force killed one of the committee’s founders, Jamal Abu Samhadana, in Gaza.