World View: Egypt in state of emergency after terrorist attack in Sinai

World View: Egypt in state of emergency after terrorist attack in Sinai

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Egypt in state of emergency after terrorist attack in Sinai
  • Sinai attack signals the end of Gaza peace agreement terms
  • Hamas reports that it’s resumed work on restoring tunnels used in Gaza war

Egypt in state of emergency after terrorist attack in Sinai

Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi has declared a state ofemergency in the Sinai peninsula to last three months, with a curfewin force from 5 pm to 7 am. Egypt will also close the Rafah crossingthat connects Gaza to Egypt, effectively canceling one of the majorterms of the peace agreement that ended the Gaza war that took placein July and August of this year. 

On Friday, 26 Egyptian troops were killed when a car bomb rammed acheckpoint in northern Sinai, near the border with Israel. Thisfollowed a gunfire attack on Wednesday from Sinai on an IsraeliDefense Force (IDF) unit on the other side of the border in Israel. 

The perpetrators are assumed to be the Sinai terrorist group AnsarBayt al-Maqdas (ABM – Ansar Jerusalem – Champions of Jerusalem).Terror attacks have been on the increase since the army coup thatousted president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood governmenton July 3 of last year, and ABM has claimed credit for many of them.(“17-Feb-14 World View — Egypt’s terrorism escalates with attack on tourist bus”

However, the perpetrators may instead have been Jund al-Khilafah(Soldiers of the Caliphate), a splinter group from a similarly namedAlgerian terrorist group that has pledged its allegiance to theIslamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). This groupannounced itself last month and has promised to strike Americaninterests and the “worshipers of the Cross” in Egypt. 

There had been a few months of relative peace in the Sinai due to aneconomic outreach to the Bedouin tribes living there and to thestationing of Egyptian troops, now numbering 7,000. Friday’s attacks are thus considered a major setback for the government. 

Al-Sisi gave a speech on Saturday saying that the “foreign-fundedoperation” was an existential attack on Egypt: 

A plot is being woven against all of us. All that ishappening has been expected. Egypt is battling a huge war – abattle of existence. We should remain united; one hand, oneheart… 

We must know that this terrorist attack was supported by foreignhands to defeat the military that has been protecting the Egyptianpeople and their will… 

I have noted before that the war in Sinai will last for a longtime, as there are a lot of terrorists hiding in the peninsula,but this new level of attacks has put us in a new level ofplanning too in order to combat the terrorism there. 

There are attempts to drive a wedge between the people and thearmy. No-one will be able to divide the Egyptian people and itsarmy.

Al-Sisi did not name any specific groups in his statement, but hedoesn’t distinguish between the Muslim Brotherhood and externaljihadist groups. Al-Sisi is promising to take “many measures” to suppress terror attacks. One proposed measure would allow militarycourts used to try civilians accused of offences such as blockingroads or attacking public property.Middle East Eye and VOA and Al Ahram (Cairo) and Newsweek

Sinai attack signals the end of Gaza peace agreement terms

When the Gaza war ended with a cease-fire agreement (“27-Aug-14 World View — Israel and Hamas agree to ‘long-term’ truce in Gaza war”),the following were the terms: 

  • A lifting of the blockade on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, opening border crossing and allowing goods and people to pass back and forth. However, the limitations on these border crossing openings were not discussed.
  • Israel will stop targeting Hamas leaders and commanders.
  • Gaza’s fishermen will be able to fish in a larger zone, extending six miles offshore.
  • Discussions of opening Gaza’s airports and seaports to start in a month.

Senior Hamas officials have been accusing Israel of purposely delayingthe implementation of this agreement. Much of Gaza’s infrastructureand housing was destroyed by airstrikes during the Gaza war, andIsrael is particularly accused of delaying the shipment ofconstruction materials into Gaza for use in rebuilding. 

Egypt is accusing Hamas of being behind Friday’s terrorist attack,which Hamas denies. Egypt has now closed the Rafah crossing, whichconnects Gaza to Egypt, and opening this crossing had been a majordemand of Hamas in the ceasefire negotiations. But now, unnamedEgyptian officials are promising to go much farther.

Egypt is said to be planning to set up a buffer zone of between 1.5and 3 kilometers along the Gaza border. Forces are expected to startevicting people and clearing structures in the proposed buffer zone,which will then be heavily guarded by Egyptian army patrols. 

The objective of the buffer zone would be to make infiltration fromGaza into Sinai more difficult. In particular, it would be moredifficult to rebuild the smuggling tunnels that have been built underthe wall that separates Gaza from Sinai. The Egyptian army has beendestroying these tunnels when it finds them, and the buffer zone wouldmean that any new tunnel would have to be much longer, and require alonger time to build. Times of Israel

Hamas reports that it’s resumed work on restoring tunnels used in Gaza war

Hamas tunnel (Memri)
Hamas tunnel (Memri)

Hamas media is reporting that its military wing, the al-QassamBrigades, is actively working on restoring the attack tunnels used inthe Gaza war, after many of them were destroyed during the war. TheHamas media report indicates that there are two kinds of tunnels: 

  • “Strategic attack tunnels” that tunnel under the wall separating Gaza from Israel, and are intended for killing or kidnapping Israeli soldiers, or carrying out military operations inside Israel.
  • “Tactical tunnels for purposes of defense,” used by Hamas to conceal mortars and launchers from Israeli spy planes.

According to the report: 

The Al-Qassam Brigades use the tunnels for severalmilitary missions, such as: firing rockets on Israeli cities;firing massive barrages of hundreds of mortars on the settlementsaround the Gaza Strip, and carrying out quality operations behindenemy lines that have resulted in the killing and capture ofsoldiers and terrorized millions of Israelis.

The report adds that Gaza is ready for a new war with Israel.Memri

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