|Part of the Aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Terrorism in Egypt|
Map of the Sinai Peninsula
|Commanders and leaders|
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi|
Hussein Tantawi (2011-2012)
Sami Anan (2011-2012)
Abd El-Fattah Salem
|Casualties and losses|
3 soldiers killed
|177 militants killed|
21 Egyptian and 7 Israeli civilians killed|
Total: 356 killed
The Sinai insurgency comprises a series of actions by radical Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsula, initiated in early 2011 as a fallout of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. The actions of those Islamist elements, largely composed of radicals among the local Bedouins, drew a harsh response from interim Egyptian government since mid-2011 known as Operation Eagle. However, attacks against government and foreign facilities in the area continued into 2012, resulting in a massive crackdown by the new Egyptian government nicknamed Operation Sinai. In May 2013, following an abduction of Egyptian officers, violence in the Sinai surged once again. Following the 2013 Egyptian coup, which resulted in the ousting of Mohamed Morsi, "unprecedented clashes" have occurred. Some of the reported attacks never occurred.
Sufism was previously dominant in the region before jihadi ideas began to take hold. The Sinai peninsula has long been known for its lawlessness, having historically served as a smuggling route for weapons and supplies. Security provisions in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty of 1979 have institutionalized a diminished security presence in the area, enabling militants to operate with a freer hand. Moreover, the limited government-directed investment and development in Sinai has discriminated against the local Bedouin population, a population that values tribal allegiance over all else. The combination of Sinai's harsh terrain and lack of resources have kept the area poor and hence ripe for militancy.
Following the January 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime, the country became increasingly destabilized, creating security vacuum in the Sinai peninsula. Radical Islamic elements in Sinai exploited the opportunity, using the unique environment, in launching several waves of attacks upon Egyptian military and commercial facilities.
According to The Economist, the conflict also involves local armed Bedouin "who have long-standing grievances against the central government in Cairo," claiming "they are barred from joining the army or police; they find it hard to get jobs in tourism; and they complain that many of their lands have been taken from them."
The first insurgency attacks came sporadically from late February 2011, concentrating on the Arab Gas Pipeline, running into Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and its offshoot from al-Arish to Israel - constantly disrupting Egyptian gas supply to the entire region.
July 2011 Egyptian police station attack
On 30 July, militants staged an attack on an Egyptian police station in El-Arish, killing six.
Operation Eagle was Egyptian military campaign in the Sinai Peninsula, that was launched in 14 August 2011 to confront Islamist insurgents and criminal gangs threatening Egypt's national security and to restore law and order. Islamist insurgents, had been attacking the Egyptian security forces in the Sinai and using the area as a base from which to attack Israel since early 2011. Including August 18 cross-border attack into Israel, by a squad of unrecognized Islamic terrorists who infiltrated Egyptian-Israeli border from Sinai, launching coordinated attacks against Israeli military and civilians.
August 2012 Sinai attack
On 5 August 2012, a group of armed men ambushed an Egyptian military base in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers and stealing two Egyptian armored cars, and then infiltrated into Israel. The attackers rammed through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel, while one of the vehicles exploded. The attackers then engaged in a firefight with soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, and six attackers were killed during the firefight. No Israelis were injured. The attackers were dressed as Bedouins and attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. 35 attackers took part in this attack on the Egyptian base.
The August 2012 attack on Egyptian armed forces triggered a crackdown, led by the Egyptian Army, Police special forces and the Air Force, sweeping the Sinai Peninsula for Jihadist terrorist militants. During the operation 32 militants and suspects killed, 38 arrested; while 2 civilians were killed (by early September 2012).
May 2013 hostage crisis
On May 2013, a number of Egyptian Army police officers were taken hostage by armed tribesmen in the Sinai peninsula, with their videos released on the internet begging for their lives. As a response, Egypt’s government had built up security forces in northern Sinai as part of an effort to secure the release of six policemen and a border guard kidnapped by suspected militants. On 20–21 May, Egyptian troops and police, backed by helicopter gunships, conducted a sweep through a number of villages in northern Sinai, along the border with Israel. The officials said the forces came under fire from gunmen in vehicles, triggering the clashes. The clashes left one gunman dead by 21 May. The hostages were released on 22 May after talks between the captors and Bedouins. One suspect in the kidnapping was arrested on 30 May 2013.
Escalation following Morsi ousting
Since Mr. Morsi's ouster on July 3, there has been an increase in violence by armed Bedouin and Islamists. Attacks on security forces has been witnessing almost daily attacks since Morsi's ouster — leading many to link the militants there to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails. In response Egypt has launched a major military operation in Sinai, bringing in two additional battalions.
In the two weeks since July 3, 39 terrorist attacks have occurred in North Sinai. In the resulting clashes between armed groups and security forces, 52 gunmen and civilians and six security personnel have died. On July 15, witnessed the highest civilian causalities, when a bus transporting workers to the army-operated Al-Arish Cement Company was attacked. Five were killed and 15 were wounded. On July 16, attacks resulted in some of the most intense army engagement, concentrated at Al-Masa'id, Al-Joura, and the Central Security camp at Al-Ahrash.
Security operations have been largely confined to the 40-kilometre area between Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, extending northward toward Rafah along the border with Israel and up to the Karam Abu Salem crossing. Fighting intensifies between the gunmen and the joint army-police forces at night. The frequency of attacks has varied from two to five in a single day. In addition, targets have expanded from fixed security checkpoints to mobile patrols. In most operations, the gunmen use four-wheel drive vehicles and combinations of light and heavy weaponry. However, in three recent attacks RPG-7 launchers were used, most likely smuggled from Libya. The G-7 grenade is capable of penetrating armoured vehicles and is generally fired at the doors.
On 27 July, operation dubbed "Desert Storm" was launched by the Egyptian army in North Sinai Governorate and will last for 48 hours. Two of Egypt's field armies, as well as the country's Air Force and Navy are reportedly taking part in this large-scale operation. The military are said to be blocking all the roads, bridges and tunnels leading from Northern Sinai to other provinces of Egypt.
A bomb was placed at a hotel frequented by security officials on 2 August 2013, though it caused no injuries. A security source told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that a majority of terrorists had been arrested as of 3 August 2013. 2 mausoleums were bombed on 4 August 2013, though no injuries resulted.
25 Egyptian policemen died in an attack in the northern region of Sinai, on August 18. After militants forced two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen to stop, ordered the policemen out and forced them to lie on the ground before shooting them. The Egyptian military arrested eleven people, including five Hamas members, three local residents and three foreign nationals, for their alleged involvement in the killings. The person who committed the murders confessed on 1 September 2013.
Military spokesperson Ahmed Ali said that Egyptian security forces recent operations in Sinai, from 5 July to 23 August, resulted in: 78 suspected militants killed, including 32 foreigners; 116 people injured; and 203 people arrested, including 48 foreigners, for their alleged involvement in attacks on security checkpoints in the peninsula. Additionally 343 tunnels on the border between Egypt and Gaza at Rafah have been destroyed.
On 3 September, fifteen Islamist militants were killed in an attack by military helicopters.
On 7 September, the Egyptian army launched a new operation in the region. The operation involved tanks and at least six Apache helicopters. The army have been jamming communications to thwart militant coordination. The army combed through areas near the Gaza Strip, including locations used by militants suspect in the killing and abduction of Egyptian soldiers over the past year. In the three days of operations, since September 7, one officer, two soldiers and 29 militants were killed, and 39 militants were arrested.
On 11 September, suicide bomber targeted Egyptian military intelligence headquarters in Rafah, bringing down the structure, at the same time a car bomb had rammed an army checkpoint. In the simultaneous attack at least nine soldiers were killed.
Out of the approximately 15 main terror groups operating in the Sinai desert, the most dominant and active terror groups have close relations with the Gaza Strip. The Army of Islam, a U.S. designated terrorist organization based in the Gaza Strip, is responsible for training and supplying many terrorist organizations and jihadist members in Sinai. Mohammed Dormosh, the Army of Islam's leader, is known for his close relationships to the Hamas leadership. Army of Islam smuggles members into the Gaza Strip for training, then returns them to the Sinai Peninsula to engage in terrorist and jihadist activities.
Forces and Strategy
The disposition of Egyptian forces in Sinai peninsula mandated by the Camp David Accords and monitored by the 1,600 foreign troops that make up the U.N. Multinational Force and Observers. Egypt is permitted only enough forces in Sinai to enforce security.
With Israel approval, in 2011 Egypt send additional 2,500 troops and 250 armored personnel, with helicopters as part of Operation Eagle, a mission to provide security during the power transition from then-recently fallen Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Operation Eagle was joined by Operation Sinai in 2012, which came in response to a militant attack against an Egyptian border post Aug. 5 that killed 16 border guards. Together, the two operations increased the total troop count by more than 2,500 added 80 vehicles and at least two attack helicopters. Egypt also was allowed to deploy armed fighter jets to El Arish to assist its ground forces in Sinai.
Egypt's expanded force structure in Sinai is designed to deny militants sanctuary by bringing more force to bear than the municipal police alone can provide. Many of the new forces are stationed in the northeast of Sinai along the Egyptian border with Gaza. Setting up roadblocks and checkpoints to monitor and inspect traffic transiting the Sinai Peninsula to counter this smuggling.
- 30 July 2011, 6 Egyptian security forces killed.
- 14 August–September 2011, Operation Eagle: 1 Islamist militant and 2 civilians killed
- 15 August 2011, 1 Islamist militant killed, 6 captured.
- 17 August 2011, 2 Bedouins killed in unclear circumstances.
- 18 August 2011, 2011 southern Israel cross-border attacks, 6 Israeli civilians and two soldiers and 5 Egyptian soldiers killed, as well as 10 attackers.
- 18 June 2012, 1 Israeli civilian killed and 2 wounded by an attack on Israeli-Egyptian border fence.
- 5 August 2012, 2012 Egyptian–Israeli border attack, 16-24 Egyptian soldiers and 8 Islamist militants killed.
- 7 August 2012, Operation Sinai (2012) - 32 militants and suspects killed, 38 arrested; 2 civilians killed (by early September 2012).
- 8 August 2012 – 20 militants killed in Sinai.
- 12 August 2012 – 7 suspected militants killed.
- 13 August 2012 – armed men shot dead tribal leader Khalaf Al-Menahy and his son.
- 29 August 2012 – Egyptian Army tanks and helicopters attack Jihadi cells, resulting in 11 dead militants and 23 more taken prisoner with no reported military casualties.
- 21 September 2012 - 1 Israeli soldier and 3 Islamist militants killed.
- 3 November 2012 - 3 Egyptian policemen killed.
- 16 April 2013 - gunmen kill 1 Egyptian policeman.
- 7 May 2013 - 1 Egyptian civilian killed by Islamist gunmen.
- 21 May 2013 - 1 gunman killed in clashes.
- June–July 2013 - 1 Egyptian soldier and 20 gunmen killed in clashes.
- 3 July to 15 July 2013 - Following the ouster of Islamist President Morsi, 8 policemen, 2 Christians, one a priest, and five civilians have been killed in attacks by Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsula.
- 16–17 July 2013 - 10 jihadists killed.
- 17 July 2013 - 3 policemen killed.
- 18 July 2013 - 1 policeman killed.
- 19 July 2013 - 2 civilians killed.
- 21 July 2013 - 2 civilians, 2 officers, and 2 policemen killed.
- 22 July 2013 - 1 civilian killed.
- 24 July 2013 - 2 soldiers and 3 jihadists killed.
- 26 July 2013 - 1 civilian killed.
- 27–28 July 2013 - 10 terrorists killed.
- 28 July 2013 - 1 officer killed.
- 29 July 2013 - 4 soldiers killed.
- 30 July 2013 - 1 soldier killed.
- 2 August 2013 - 1 policeman killed.
- 5 August 2013 - 1 soldier killed.
- 7 August 2013 - 1 civilian killed.
- 9 August 2013 - 4 militants killed.
- 11 August 2013 - 12 militants killed.
- 14 August 2013 - 2 policemen and 1 army colonel killed.
- 15 August 2013 - 8 soldiers killed by insurgents near Arish.
- 17 August 2013 - 6 people killed.
- 18 August 2013 - 1 soldier killed.
- 19 August 2013 - 25 off service unarmed central security forces soldiers were ambushed and executed by insurgents.
- 30 August 2013 - 3 militants, 2 policemen and one police chief were killed in separate attacks.
- 3 September 2013 - 15 militants killed.
- 4 September 2013 - 2 conscripts killed.
- 7 September 2013 - At least 31 militants killed.
- 11 September 2013 - 6 soldiers killed.
- 30 September 2013 - 3 policemen, 1 soldier, and 1 civilian killed.
- 7 October 2013 - A car bomb killed three police officers in southern Sinai, hours after masked gunmen shot dead six soldiers in a patrol car outside the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.
- 10 October 2013 - A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a checkpoint outside the city of al-Arish in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing three soldiers and a policeman.
- 17 October 2013 - 6 militants killed.
- 18 October 2013 - 1 policeman killed.
- 21 October 2013 - 1 civilian killed.
- 22 Oct 2013 - One officer and a civilian driver killed.
- 23 October 2013 - 1 soldier killed.
- 6 November 2013 - 1 soldier killed and 3 Islamist militants killed.
- 7 November 2013 - 8 militants killed.
In the two years since 2011, Israel has approved two Egyptian military increases in the Sinai Peninsula above levels set in the Camp David Accords, which mandates that the Sinai must remain demilitarized, with only enough forces in Sinai to enforce security. Israel did so because it is not in its interest to have unrest in Sinai, whether political protests or militant violence.
However in late 2012, concern began to be raised as Egypt began deploying more force and tanks without coordination from Israel. On 21 August, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that it is important for Israel to make sure that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is upheld, and not to remain silent as Egyptian military forces enter the Sinai. Concern was raised by Israeli officials over Egyptian failure to notify Israel about the deployment of tanks in the Sinai, which violates the peace treaty. Lieberman said, "We must make sure that every detail is upheld, otherwise we'll find ourselves in a slippery slope as far as the peace treaty is concerned."
On the same day, Israeli daily Maariv reported that Israel sent a message to Egypt via the White House, protesting Egypt's ongoing increase in military presence in the Sinai without coordination from Israel, and telling Egypt that it must remove tanks from the Sinai because their presence violates the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979, which states that Sinai Peninsula is to remain demilitarized. The Israeli daily Maariv reported was reinforced by an article in The New York Times, which stated that Israel was “troubled” by the entry of Egyptian tanks into the northern Sinai Peninsula without coordination with Israel and had asked Egypt to withdraw them. Partly due to Egypt's military deploying tanks in the Sinai Peninsula, Israel is increasingly worried about what has long been their most critical regional relationship. The lack of coordination around their deployment is seen as potentially undermining a peace treaty that has been a cornerstone of Israel’s security for decades according to the New York Times. Israel is also concerned that Egypt may use Operation Eagle to build up its military presence in the Sinai, and leave the tanks and armored carriers in the Sinai while not doing much more than symbolic action to eliminate the terrorist threat.
Israel has not issued a formal complaint, and instead prefers to resolve the issue through quiet contacts, as well as mediation from the U.S., to avoid straining its relationship with Egypt.
On 24 August 2012, a senior Egyptian military source said that Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reached an agreement on the issue of the militarization of the Sinai. Al Hayat reported that Sissi phoned Barak and said that Egypt was committed to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel. Sissi also said that the militarization was temporary, and was needed for security and to fight terrorism. However, an Israeli defense official denied that such a conversation took place.
In late August 2012, Egyptian President Morsi said that the security operations do not threaten anyone, and "there should not be any kind of international or regional concerns at all from the presence of Egyptian security forces." Morsi added that the campaign was in "full respect to international treaties," although the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal places limits on Egyptian military deployment in the Sinai.
On 8 September, an Israeli official confirmed that coordination exists between Israel and Egypt regarding Operation Eagle. Egyptian Military spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali had earlier announced that Egypt has been consulting with Israel regarding its security measures in the Sinai.
According to CNN, in a move to increase security in the Sinai, help Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and reassure Israel, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is offering Egypt classified intelligence-sharing capabilities to help Egypt identify military threats in the area, which he discussed during his recent trips to Egypt and Israel. The technology has been widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify vehicles at great distances. The technology may also be used by the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai. The United States is also offering increased intelligence sharing, including satellite imagery and drone flights, as well as cellphone intercepts and other communications among militants suspected of plotting attacks.
On 22 August, the State Department urged Egypt to be transparent over Operation Eagle and any security operations in the Sinai. The State Department said that the United States supports Operation Eagle against terrorism, but stressed that Egypt must continue coordination with Israel regarding these operations and military increases in the Sinai, according to the 1979 Camp David Accords. The State Department also called on Egypt to fulfill its obligations under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and deal strongly with security threats in the Sinai, while ensuring that "lines of communication stay open."
On 23 August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, urged Amr to maintain lines of communication with Israel, and emphasized the importance of being transparent over the militarization of the Sinai.
Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai
The Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, a 1650-strong international organization created in 1979 during the Camp David Accords with peacekeeping responsibilities, kept a low profile during the intensification of Operation Eagle in 2012. A representative for the organization said that "we are unable to respond to queries from the media at this time" in response to whether Egypt asked permission to move weaponry into the Sinai, and whether Israel granted it.
The Egyptian pipeline carrying natural gas to Jordan, has been attacked at least 15 times since the start of the uprising in early 2011. The lack of Egyptian gas hit Jordan budget severely (by JD 1.4 billion or the equivalent of USD 2 billion yearly for the past two years) and they are looking for Egypt compensation for the lost quantities.
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