Report: Egyptian army pushes to attack kidnappers

Army waits for green light; Morsi seeks negotiations. Lead commentator says Israel and Egypt need to amend current treaty.

egyptian soldiers hold poster of dead brother 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
egyptian soldiers hold poster of dead brother 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Egyptian Army is pushing President Mohamed Morsi for a green light to attack the kidnappers of seven security officers who have been held since last Thursday, Sunday’s Asharq al-Awsat reported.
Islamic leaders close to Morsi have been negotiating with the kidnappers for two days, as the president would prefer to resolve the standoff without deaths.
The paper quoted presidential spokesman Omar Amer saying “all options were now open” in dealing with the kidnappers.
An Egyptian official said the army’s patience was “running out.”
Morsi had given instructions to proceed cautiously and not resort to violence too quickly.
The Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk quoted him on Sunday saying his government would have “no dialogue with criminals,” contradicting reports that he quietly was trying to negotiate a solution to the crisis. Morsi also denied media rumors about disagreements on how to handle the crisis, asserting there were no differences between the presidency and other organs of the state, according to the daily.
In response to the abduction by suspected jihadists, Egyptian police continue to keep the Rafah border crossing with Gaza closed in protest.
The closure spread on Sunday to include the al-Awja crossing, 40 km. south of Rafah, where trucks from Egypt cross into Israel.
The Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm quoted security sources on Sunday asserting that even if a solution were not found to release the captive soldiers, the border with Gaza would be opened as Hamas had complained about hundreds of families stuck waiting at the border terminal.
In the meantime, military intelligence is putting pressure on the north Sinai security directorate to carry out a plan to break into the crossing and open it by force.
Security forces have disarmed the police protesters at the checkpoint in preparation for forcing open the border, according to the report.
Liad Porat, who specializes in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood and is a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post the Muslim Brotherhood leadership seeks full sovereignty in all of Egypt, which means the eventual removal of any US or UN forces from Sinai.
He added that the jihadist threat may justify moving more Egyptian forces into Sinai, which fits with Morsi’s goal to overcome the limits imposed by the peace treaty with Israel along with Muslim Brotherhood ideology and its rhetoric of the past year, which paints Israel as the enemy.
According to a report on the Gulf News website on Sunday, the kidnappers are mostly Islamic jihadists and are seeking the release of 30 jihadist prisoners. Presidential spokesman Amer was quoted on TV Saturday night saying Morsi knows all the details of the location and identity of the kidnappers. Egyptian security reinforcements are being sent to Sinai as intelligence reveals the soldiers are being held in three locations, and being moved every two hours, according to the report.
The Egyptian Daily News website reported on Saturday that Morsi sent his adviser Emad Abdel Ghafour to Sinai late on Friday in an attempt to solve the crisis. Ghafour met with tribal leaders.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Beduin tribes, Moussa El-Lahawi, said on Egyptian TV Saturday that the incident “hurts the reputation of the tribes,” according to Ahram Online.
Joshua Goodman, a PhD candidate at Yale University who is an expert on the Beduin in Israel and Sinai, told the Post that reports that jihadists carried out the kidnapping are probably accurate as the Beduin “know that kidnapping soldiers does not work,” adding that the Beduin tactic of kidnapping Western tourists is far more effective.
The closure of the border by the border police and the chaos in Sinai “once again shows a deep-seated inability [by Egypt] to control its territory and suggests that this will be the case for years to come,” Goodman said.
Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote on Friday that it is time to amend the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The treaty prevents Egypt from sending adequate forces to deal with the chaos there, he said.
Egypt must put its own national security interests before its agreements with Israel, he said.
“The Egyptian government should give priority to the security and the sovereignty of the state, not to the Camp David Treaty. They should demand that the treaty be amended as it now constitutes a serious threat to maintaining Egypt’s national security,” Atwan wrote.
The police chief of the North Sinai Governorate, Gen. Sameh Beshadi, was quoted by Al-Masry al-Youm on Friday as saying that the kidnappers want the release of Islamists imprisoned over a 2011 attack on a police station.
Gunmen demanding the release of jailed Islamists seized the policemen and soldiers on the road between the Sinai towns of El-Arish and Rafah on Thursday.
Reuters contributed to this report.