The Egyptian army suspects that fighters in the Islamic State terror group are using Israeli SIM cards to communicate with each other in the Sinai Peninsula, and is jamming cellular networks in southern Israel in its battle against the jihadists, causing disruptions for some 300,000 Israeli cellular users, the Globes financial daily reported Wednesday.
In February, Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, sent out a text message saying residents had been subject to “intolerable disruptions” in their cellular communication networks, and were unable to send or receive calls or messages. The disruptions were a result of security activities in Egypt, he said, for which Israeli residents were paying a steep price. He called for the immediate intervention of the Israeli Defense Ministry and the army.
Wednesday’s report said that the reason for the disruptions was Egypt’s battle against Islamic State fighters. The Egyptian army was deliberately jamming the Israeli networks, and Israel was not intervening even though Egypt was in effect infringing on Israeli sovereignty, the report said, citing unnamed Israeli officials.
The Egyptian army suspects that the fighters were using Israeli SIM cards to make it harder for local forces to locate them, and is concerned Islamic State will use the cellphones to detonate bombs remotely, the report said.
In December, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on an Egyptian church south of Cairo that left at least nine people dead. That assault came a little more than a month after terrorists killed 311 worshipers inside a mosque in Sinai, the deadliest attack by terrorists on civilians in Egypt’s modern history.
A source familiar with the operations of the cellular companies in Israel said the disruptions, apparently from Egypt, have been affecting all of the cellular networks in the south and have been ongoing for a number of weeks. There is not much these firms can do about it, the source said.
Bezeq’s Pelephone, a mobile network provider, said in a text message: “There is an external interference to all the Israeli cellular networks. We are currently working with the authorized official bodies that are relevant to bringing the matter to an end.” A spokeswoman for Cellcom Israel Ltd., the nation’s largest cellular provider, referred questions to the Communications Ministry.
There was no immediate response by the IDF, the Communications Ministry or the Defense Ministry to a request for comment.
In a comment to Globes, the IDF said that the disruptions were caused by the Egyptian army in Egyptian territory. “The issue is being dealt with,” the military said.