How and when will the burgeoning ISIS forces in Sinai act against Israel? For the past year this question has troubled the Israeli intelligence community, which has struggled to provide a satisfactory answer.
The reason it is difficult to get a firm read on the situation is that this particular branch of ISIS is operating in a compartmentalized and largely unorganized manner in a huge open desert with the support of local Bedouin smugglers.
But even without firm intelligence, Israel’s famed Caracal Battalion is gearing up to take on the jihadist horde. Named after a small cat species whose sexes appear the same, Caracal is renowned for fielding both male and female combatants. In fact, some 70 percent of Caracal infantrymen are women, something ISIS reportedly fears.
Worst case scenarios for which the IDF is currently planning include ISIS attacks on the Nitzana and Kerem Shalom border crossings, as well as infiltrations into Israeli border villages.
Such attacks would presumably involve tens of ISIS gunmen, at least, and resemble recent assaults on Egyptian military bases in Sinai, during which dozens of police officers and soldiers have been killed. Like its parent organization in Iraq and Syria, the Sinai branch of ISIS is not interested merely in terrorist-style strikes, but has also attempted to occupy urban areas.
Israel has a fence along much of its border with Egypt, but that would only temporarily stall a determined ISIS assault. For that reason, Caracal, which has long patrolled this border, is today, and for the first time, undergoing intense urban warfare training just like the Paratrooper, Golani and Givati infantry brigades.
The mission is simple. If ISIS forces manage to penetrate an Israeli village, Caracal will strike first and strike hard.
Battalion commander Capt. Ksusha Levin said she will be among those to first greet the most brutal terrorist group in the world on its first visit to Israel. “I do not know when the attack will come,” she told Israel’s Ynet news portal. “We are stronger than the enemy, but we are preparing for worst case and extreme scenarios.”
According to the most recent estimates, ISIS forces in Sinai, which began as a local branch of Al Qaeda, number some 2,000–3,000 men armed with machine guns and advanced anti-tank missiles.