Egypt boosts Sinai forces amid hostage crisis

Army sends reinforcements as Morsi says no talks with Islamists who abducted 7 security forces men last week.

By REUTERS
May 20, 2013 16:18
3 minute read.
Egyptian Army soldiers guard gates of Sinai Gaza closed border crossing, May 20, 2012.

Rafah border crossing Sinai Gaza370. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

EL-ARISH, Egypt  - The Egyptian army sent reinforcements into the Sinai Peninsula on Monday after President Mohamed Morsi said there would be no talks with militant Islamists who abducted seven members of the security forces last week.

Radical Islamists have expanded into a security vacuum in Sinai that the state has struggled to fill since an uprising swept autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. The groups have launched attacks on Israel and targets in North Sinai.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


The kidnapping has highlighted lawlessness in the peninsula bordering Israel, enraged Egyptian security forces and piled domestic pressure on Morsi to act. Egyptian security forces have blocked border crossings into the Gaza Strip to pressure the government into helping free their colleagues.

Witnesses saw armored personnel carriers moving east on Monday over the Suez Canal towards North Sinai where militants staged the abduction and where gunmen assaulted a police base on Monday. They later arrived in the North Sinai town of El-Arish, accompanied by the commander of Egypt's second field army.

A military official said the extra military forces were dispatched to Sinai after a meeting on Sunday between the army command and Morsi, who has promised not to submit to blackmail by kidnappers demanding the release of jailed Islamists.

Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said: "All options are on the table to free the kidnapped soldiers."





The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said on its website that shipping in the Suez Canal had been briefly halted as the reinforcements crossed the waterway.

"Our patience has run out," Al-Ahram quoted a military official as saying in its print edition.

As security began to unravel in the peninsula later in 2011, Israel agreed to Egyptian requests to deploy more troops there than allowed by the countries' 1979 peace treaty. The Israeli defense ministry had no immediate comment on the new deployment.

The Sinai is mainly a large swathe of rugged, thinly populated desert but its Red Sea coast has a string of international tourist resorts.

MORSI FACES TOUGH CHOICE ON ACTION


"Our impression is that the Israelis are eager for Egypt to improve the security situation in the Sinai, and it's unlikely that they would object," said a Western diplomat in Cairo.

Egyptian security forces launched a security operation to re-establish control in Sinai last August after an attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards.

Morsi said on Sunday there would be no talks with "the criminals" - a reference to militants who adhere to a more radical school of Islam than the president's Muslim Brotherhood.

The kidnappers are demanding the release of militants convicted last year of the attacks that killed seven people, six of them members of the security forces, in 2011.

A video posted online on Sunday showed seven blindfolded men with their hands bound above their heads. They said they were the hostages, begging Morsi to free political detainees in Sinai in exchange for their own release. Al-Masry Al-Youm, an independent newspaper, reported that parents and friends of some of the men who appeared in the video had confirmed their identities. The video's authenticity could not be independently confirmed.

"In domestic political terms, Morsi is going to be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't," said Yasser El-Shimy, Egypt analyst with the International Crisis Group.

"If he negotiates, he will be criticized for being too lenient with Islamist militants, and if he tries to wage an operation to free them, which may entail casualties, then he is also going to be widely criticized."

Related Content

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand mosque ahead of annual Haj pilgrimage in the
August 20, 2018
Muslims at hajj blame Arab disunity for Jerusalem embassy move

By REUTERS