Terrorist Activity And Security Situation In Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

Donate

Terrorist Activity And Security Situation In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula

Written by Ahmed Sayed exclusively for SouthFront

Terrorism in Sinai Peninsula began in 2002 when Khaled Masa’ad formed the first jihadi group in Sinai. This group was called Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. It was influenced by al Qaeda ideology and the Second Palestine Intifada. Its main goal was to help the Palestinians, though its objective soon changed and the group started their armed actions in Sinai.

The first phase of attacks in Sinai Peninsula occurred in 2004 with an attack on a tourist hotel in Taba that was followed by a similar attack on a key tourist destination in Dahab 2005, then Sharm el Sheikh in 2006. In response, the Egyptian police carried out a large security campaign in Sinai Peninsula, managing to limit terrorist activities in the peninsula until 2011.

After the Egyptian Color Revolution in 2011, chaos spread widely in Sinai and jihadi groups resumed their operations on the peninsula where they consolidated under united leadership.  There are several terror groups in Sinai, including Tawhed and Jihad, Aknaf bit al maqdus in Sinai, Ansar bit al maqdus , and other smaller jihadi groups, all of which consolidated under the name on Ansar Bit al-Maqudis after 2011.

Terrorist Activity And Security Situation In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula

Click to see the full-size map

Its first public appearance was in 2011, when it declared itself as a jihadi group in Sinai defending the Palestinians attacking Israeli interests in Egypt.

In 2011 the group blew up the gas pipeline linking Egypt with Jordan and Israel several times, attacked an Israeli patrol near the border killing a solider, and launched several missiles at Israeli territory

The great breakthrough occurred in 2012, during the rule of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt when the group carried out its first big attack against the Egyptian army August 2012,  known as the first Rafah attack which took place in the border area near Gaza. The group has links with Hamas movement in Gaza where they have received training. After parting ways with Hamas, the group moved into the Sinai where they still receive weapons and munitions through tunnels from Gaza. Moreover, thanks to presidential pardons of veteran jihadis in prisons, by late 2012 jihadis numbered some 3,000 fighters in north Sinai.

There many other factors helping the emergence of jihadi groups:

  • Camp David peace treaty: the treaty divided Sinai into three sectors, A, B, and C, with the army unable to deploy heavy weapons in sector C. After 2012 the authorities demanded Israel to allow Egyptian army to deploy heavy military equipment, now it’s believed  the Egyptian Government will change the terms of treaty claiming the circumstances in Sinai have changed.
  • The rugged nature of the terrain that’s an ideal place for guerrilla war and the tribal community that resides in this area facilitatie the existence of those terrorist group
  • Egyptian higher command has always considered north Sinai as the place for any upcoming war with Israel so this area was excluded from any development plans.
Terrorist Activity And Security Situation In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula

Click to see the full-size map

Muslim Brotherhood’s Overthrow

After the overthrow of MB regime in Egypt the situation  in Sinai  deteriorated even more. Ansar bit al maqudis in Sinai, supported by some HAMAS factions, launched massive attacks against police and army. Militants started mine warfare against army convoys on undefended or unsecured roads.  A single attack on a bus by roadside bomb killed about 25 soldiers. By the end of 2013 Ansar bit almaqudis group was conducting both mine and sniper warfare against the army

2014

The militant attacks in north Sinai became systematic and followed the tactics used in Iraq and Syria, including large numbers of VBIED attacks. They even acquired a MANPADS and downed a helicopter in February 2104, but the most powerful and prominent attack that changed the course of events was the well-coordinated attack on army checkpoints in Rafah and Arish, the attack on (karam al qawadis) where the militants killed about 31 soldiers, including high ranking commanders, and seized a considerable amount of weapons and ammunition. This attack was a turning point, for a month after the attacks Ansar bit al maqudis declared allegiance to Islamic state and proclaimed Sinai province to be part of Islamic state. This move drew a large amount of resources to the militants in Sinai to fund their operations, and from this moment the militants took the upper hand, being now able to conduct weekly attacks

Terrorist Activity And Security Situation In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula

Click to see the full-size map

2015

In 2015 the attacks continued at a high rate.  The militants attacked several military locations, including the attack on security sites in January 2015 , the central security camp in March 2015 , checkpoints, and Arish police station in April 2015. After intense preparations, ISIS-aligned jihadists conducted a massive synchronized attack on July 1, 2015 on all security forces locations in order to seize a city or a strip of land and declare their caliphate. ISIS launched its most powerful attack on Shiek-zouied and Rafah city in hope of taking both cities, but the army  repelled this attack killing about 400 ISIS militants in a four day battle. This battle was another turning point in war, but this time with the army took the upper hand and started a huge campaign to destroy terrorists’ shelters, destroy smuggling tunnels from Gaza, establish a buffer zone near the borders, and most importantly to establish check points on the local roads used by the militants south and west of Rafah and south of shiek zouied.  This move decreased militants’ ability to mobilize their forcex to make concentrated attacks.

2016   

In 2016 militant attacks on north Sinai declined considerably, they lost the ability to launch concerted concurrent attacks but were to inflict casualties on Egyptian forces. By the end of 2016 the militants opted for new strategies.

  • The militants started targeting Christian minority in northern Sinai and in central Egypt;
  • The militants started to conduct operations outside of the main presence areas in central and upper Egypt to lift the pressure imposed by the army.

The main funding sources

There are many sources of funding and suppling militants in Sinai.

Donations: the militants receive donations from MB members in Egypt, local supporting population, and from MB members in Qatar and turkey

Isis affiliation:  Ansar bit al maudis declared allegiance to Islamic state. This move draws large amount of funding and resources to the militants in Sinai.

Main sources of weapons: The prevalence of small arms in the tribal community helped the militants in acquiring a huge number of small arms.

Gaza tunnels:  There are hundreds of tunnels linking Gaza band and Rafah. The tunnels’ exits are located inside buildings on both sides of the border, and tunnels are used to transfer medium and heavy weapons and supplies in both directions. They also smuggle weapons by sea in small boats

Libyan arsenal:  After the fall of regime in Libya the former Libyan army weapons depots represented an important weapons source for militants, including ATGMs and MANPADS.

Tribes and ISIS:  the tribal community in north Sinai helped the militants to melt into the population. Some local youth joined the militants, but the situation between tribes and militants ultimately deteriorated

  • Tribes use local road to smuggle goods and gain profit, while the militants used the same roads to deliver supplies ISIS militants and raided a number of tribe convoys
  • The army depends on human intelligence from the tribes, so ISIS member assassinated members and elders of tribes who collaborated with the army.

This led to escalation, and the tribes decided to join the fight against the militants in an organized manner.  The tribes formed a force assisting the Egyptian Army numbering at up to 1500 members from different tribes in Sinai.

Conclusion

The militants’ situation in Sinai is deteriorating rapidly for the following reasons. The army gained enough experience to face asymmetric warfare, the IS empire in Syria and Iraq is shrinking dramatically, the new alliance between the army and tribes also represents a massive blow to militants, and most importantly the growing cooperation between Egypt and Hamas in order to boost the security collaboration and reach consensus to settle the dispute between Fatah and Hamas movements.

Donate

  • jerry hamilton

    “they still receive weapons and munitions through tunnels from Gaza”
    Do the Palestinians really have weapons?

    • χρηστος

      they even have rockets……

      • jerry hamilton

        They have not fired rockets into Israel for a very long time.
        They did and came off 100 x worse off.
        When Netanyahu wants rockets fired at Israel, the IDF make sure it happens.

        • χρηστος

          you are right there. im sure that israel has persons working for it inside hamas.

          • jerry hamilton

            Could be wrong but I think you are Greek.
            Can you give me any links to exactly what went down in Kefalonia in 1943?
            For some reason it is not easy to research.

          • χρηστος

            what events are you looking for…..?i’ll be glad to help

          • jerry hamilton

            It’s the mass murder of Italian troops by the Germans in September 1943.
            There were mixed messages to the Italians who attacked the Germans.
            The west has an official history of the wars which is far removed from the truth but the Italians seem to want to hide everything that happened.
            American and English historians just want to blame the Germans for everything and can’t be trusted.

          • χρηστος

            ok i figured out that thats what you were looking for from the start but just wanted to be certain….ley me check the sources i caan find and get back to you. the story i know is that italians suffered very much in the hands of germans cause they considered them traitors. let me read the details…..i’ll get back to you..

          • χρηστος

            searched a lot of sites that tell the story of the Acqui Division a part of the 240000 italian troops in greece. Their force was about 10000-12000. The difference of these division is that it fought the germans. the premier act was the sinking of a supply ship and the capture of the second. these ships were delivering heavy arms to the Germans in Kefalonia. the numbers of the dead cant be precise but almost noone survived. in the initial fights,before they surrendered 1315 died. even the prisoners that were transported to concetration camps with 2-3 ships (the survivors of the massacre) were sunk by naval mines in the Adriatic sea. People from the islands of Kefalonia and Corfu (were no more than 500 italians were stationed and all were killed) say that even the ones that run to the mountains or tried to hide suffered horribly because of the cold, starvation etc. The order from Hitler himself was that they should be treated as rebels, traitors guerilla fighters.not pows. The only contradicting testimonies i found were about the deal with the greek guerrila fighters. some sources say that they gave their weapons to them others deny such thing mixing the english in this since in Greece there were 2 major fractions. ELAS and EDES. ELAS was the communist version so the english didnt want them to have a stockpile of guns after the war. The same was reported about the main staging area in Thessaly of the Italian forces. They surrendered their weapons to the Edes fighters. The main difference i found is that the Acqui Division resisted the Germans.gave a fight, sunk ships, in COrfu they even captured about 500 germans (after a while the Germans broke free and paid them back with death). They paid dearly. A big massacre. thats the facts. what westerns may want to conceal is the secret deals about the italian weapon storages . To whom they should be given.

          • jerry hamilton

            Thank you so much. It is so much more than I could find.
            I have to say, your English is incredibly good.

          • χρηστος

            glad to help you. we have many sources about WWII adout stories about that era. You see we suffered a bloody civil war after that which caused more suffering than all previous wars. in addition we have a mania about history……if theres anything more specific you want me to find please ask. in general i have to add that Italian were the lesser of 3 evils during the occupation of greece by the Axis forces. bulgaria tried to assimilate the Greeks to Bulgaria. had been trying since wwi and the balcan wars. a very bloody effort. the Germans are well known for the massacre of entire villages in reprisal for minor incidents (hit and run guerilla operations with some wounded soldiers as a result) whereas the italians were on Greece enjoying their vacations especially in the ionian islands which are near Italy. they were not very huge supporters of Mousolini as well and had suffered big casualties in the beggining of the attack to greece…..some parts of greece were in different eras under italian rule….even when italy was not ‘Italy’ back then. During the fall of the Byzazntine empire (crashed by the Ottomans) many islands in the aegean were still under the rule of Venice (venetocracy period of greece). So we have known ‘italians’ for 1000s of years before…..

          • jerry hamilton

            Winston Churchill who I actually blame for WW2 and certainly encouraged WW1, was accused of saying “Hero’s fight like Greeks.”
            I don’t know if he actually said it but I do know that he agreed with it.
            From what I have read, he is right.

            Your information has been a real pleasure to read.
            I do have something else I would like to know but it might be of a sensitive nature.
            Goldman Sachs effectively screwed Greece illegally.
            Why have you not sued?
            Could it possibly be some corrupt politicians are being paid not to, or are there things I am not aware of.

          • χρηστος

            the answer is very simple……if someone agrees to sue them things that noone wishes to hear will be heard in court…..meaning….politicians will be blamed…..their party will vanish but while it comes crushing down it will drag other parties with it, since Goldman Sachs wasn’t something new in Greece……..we will learn the real story about these things in many years from now ,when they cant harm anyone….and maybe we will find a 90 year old politician to take the blame…..just a significant fact…..we invited G.Sachs…..they didnt come by force…that explains a lot

          • jerry hamilton

            You are without a doubt one of the most impressive people I have ever come across. What is your alias, Chomsky?

          • χρηστος

            !!!

          • jerry hamilton

            You make it sound very obvious.
            Is that how most Greeks would look at it?

          • χρηστος

            well everyone knows about these things,at least the ones that care. given the fact that there is a large disapointment in the political system in total, many Greeks just dont care….they dont care about anything just try to get past the burden they carry :taxes, unemployment, recession in general. and im talking about the great majority here. corruption and deceipt have reached such levels in the last years that nothing seems to surprise us any more. so if tommorow a newspaper or a politicial tries to reveal the dark role of ….whoever…in any subject…..well it want even make the headlines for a day or two…..some comments on fb and tweeter and thats it…..

          • jerry hamilton

            Thank you so much for taking the time to help me.
            I have recently come back from Kefalonia and donated much money to their tourist trade. So beautiful, so expensive.
            If there is anything I could do for you I would be more than happy to.

          • χρηστος

            glad i could help.

          • Omega

            Hamas’ very creation was supported by Israel.

          • χρηστος

            helped the radicals ?putting out fire with gasoline?no idea about that….

          • Omega

            Not sure what you mean.

            What I meant is: the creation of Hamas was supported by Israel to thwart the PLO. Considering how Hamas never helped the Palestinian cause, I wouldn’t be surprised Hamas is controlled opposition.

          • χρηστος

            i get your point. maybe hamas was funded to come to power to divide palestinians…which occured as we see. 2 states 2 different governments and occassionaly they fought each other as well.so what you say seems realistic.havent thought about that

  • Mountains

    The Location itself is iconic. The all time famous and divine Sinai. The mountains of Sinai Where Moses recieved his revelation and spoke to god. Blessed land indeed

    • jerry hamilton

      I would be seriously interested in a stenographer transcript.
      Did he really say us cattle were only alive to serve the divine jewish master?
      What!!! not even a tape recording???

  • BMWA1

    Map erratum: country adjacent to terrorist activities is Israel, not Isreal,though the former isn’t all that real either.