Egyptian army tanks en route to Rafah 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
In the Sinai Peninsula, where attacks on security forces have multiplied since
president Mohamed Morsi’s removal, suspected Islamist terrorists killed at least
24 policemen on Monday.
Three policemen were also wounded in the grenade
and machine-gun attack near the north Sinai town of Rafah on the border with
Israel, medical and security sources said.
Photos circulated on social
media and purporting to show the aftermath of the attack showed victims lying
with their hands tied behind them, apparently shot execution- style. They were
not in uniform. The photos could not be immediately verified.
also shot dead a policeman in the Sinai city of El-Arish, the state news agency
said, quoting a security source.
Mounting insecurity in Sinai worries
Egypt and also the United States because the desert peninsula lies next to
Israel and the Palestinians’ Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, as well as the Suez Canal,
one of the world’s most important shipping arteries.
director of the new Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam and a
research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at
Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post that the situation in Sinai “is
almost an all-out war.”
Asked if he thinks the Egyptian military has the
capability to calm the Sinai, Kedar responded that it could if it allocated
enough resources and firepower. The key factor is motivation, he
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Furthermore, Kedar asserted that the issue “cannot be solved with
tanks,” and that “they need to use commando units because they fight in caves
and mountains,” where land vehicles cannot go.
The Sinai is almost three
times the size of Israel and largely lawless. Where there are no roads, there is
no law, stated Kedar.
Noting that many Beduin are not part of the
jihadist groups, Kedar said that it takes “no more than a thousand [terrorists]
to make Sinai go to hell.”
In an article on his blog titled “The Curse of
Sinai,” Kedar wrote that the Sinai was never “an integral part of Egypt” but was
annexed only in the 20th century when Britain ruled the country.
attributes this to the wish of creating some distance between the Ottoman Empire
and the Suez Canal.
After Israel withdrew from the territory in 1982 and
the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Beduin became the intermediary between Gaza and
Egypt, Kedar said.
He noted that Hamas has “tried to turn the Sinai into
a secondary base from which to attack Israel, and because it was sovereign
Egyptian territory,” it serves to restrain Israel from responding.
Goodman, a PhD student at Yale who is an expert on the Beduin in Israel and
Sinai, stated to the Post that the concentration of the violence is centered
around Rafah and El- Arish, which “strongly suggests the fight is less about
Sinai-specific issues than it is about the ongoing geopolitical standoff between
the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood, and between the military and
He noted that there is a relative lack of violence
outside the northern corridor, and south Sinai has remained absolutely
“The only unrest is in west Sinai, in the cities like Suez and
Port Said, and in the northern cities of Rafah and El-Arish.”
concluded that this means that not too many Beduin are involved in this fight,
though he says that “violence in Sheikh Zuwaid calls into question the
involvement of some members of the Suwarka tribe, probably cooperating with
elements in Rafah, as usual.”
“Considering how big Sinai is, very few
have properly observed that a large bulk of the violence is concentrated in a
tiny portion of the peninsula, pushed right up against the border.”
leads Goodman to believe that much of the insurgency is an urban one, and that
the terrorists cannot function too far from the towns and cannot subsist in the
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