Monday, February 14, 2011

Terror in Sinai

by Frank Crimi

As the Obama administration welcomes participation by the Muslim Brotherhood in the new Egyptian government to be formed, reports have surfaced that the Brotherhood is now directing its terrorist minions to use the Sinai as a staging area for new terrorist operations.

According to Israeli intelligence officials, Hamas and al Qaeda fighters, under the operational control of the Muslim Brotherhood, are now using North Sinai as a base from which to launch large-scale attacks on both Egypt and Israel.

While Israel remains a favored target, the new terror strategy is also designed to push Egyptian forces out of the northern and central regions of the Sinai Peninsula and bring Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip under Palestinian control. An Egyptian retreat would also allow Hamas to fully eliminate the Egyptian blockade that impedes the organization’s smuggling routes into Gaza and restore them back to full operation.

By taking advantage of the current upheaval in Egypt, more than 1,000 Hamas and al Qaeda fighters have now reportedly entered into the Sinai through the tunnels that link Gaza to the Egyptian city of Rafah. Adding further concern to the situation are reports that Hamas has struck a deal to help arm the Gaza-based Army of Islam and transport them into the Sinai.

While the Sinai has long been a source of terrorist strife, having been used by militants to launch assaults on resorts in the southern Sinai, the new terror strategy has engulfed the region with a blistering series of militant attacks over the past few weeks.

On January 30, fighters from Ezz e-Din al Qassam, the armed component of Hamas, crossed into North Sinai and attacked Egyptian troops near the city of El Arish. This was followed a day later by an attack on an Egyptian police station in El Arish by an al Qaeda terror cell from Gaza.

On February 5, terrorists were accused of blowing up a section of an Egyptian natural gas pipeline that supplied both Israel and Jordan. Although that explosion was initially blamed on a gas leak, it was later confirmed as a terrorist attack by Egyptian officials.

In fact, the intelligence organization, Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) claimed that prior to the attack, an Islamist website had posted: “To our brothers, the Bedouins of Sinai, the heroes of Islam, strike with an iron fist, because this is a chance to stop the supply to the Israelites.”

On February 6, five armed men, three of whom were members of Hamas, were captured by Egyptian soldiers as they went back to blow up another section of the pipeline. A day later, Egyptian security forces came under attack near the city of Rafah by the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Takfir Wal-Hijra. The Egyptians claimed that the same group had kidnapped three Egyptian policemen only days earlier.

Adding further unease to the terror situation in Egypt has been the escape of thousands of criminals and Islamic terrorists from Cairo jails during the initial period of the Egyptian uprising. In the Egyptian city of Fayoum alone, over 700 prisoners reportedly escaped from jail while four jails in Cairo emptied onto the streets over 1000 convicts.

These newly re-circulated terrorists include members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas, all of whom walked out of Wadi Natrun prison when the guards purportedly left their posts amid the turmoil of the rioting. However, other reports have said that the convicts were released in a Hezbollah-led operation, and that the Hezbollah- and Hamas-affiliated escapees returned to Gaza.

Other terrorists who were confirmed as having escaped from jail were two top Hamas leaders, including Mohammad a-Shaer, a renowned weapons smuggler. Perhaps more disturbing was the escape of 26 Hezbollah fighters convicted of planning terror strikes in the Suez Canal. Among them was the notorious Hezbollah terrorist Sami Shihab, sentenced to 15 years in prison for planning attacks on Israeli tourists in the Sinai. According to Mahmoud Komati, a senior member of Hezbollah, all men were “out of jail and safe.”

In the Sinai, Egyptian security officials announced that 50 terrorists from the Islamic group, Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, had broken out of jail. They had all been convicted of planning the truck bombing at the Sinai Taba Hilton in 2004, an explosion which killed 31 people and wounded 179.

Egyptian officials also confirmed that Hamas’s most notorious smuggling experts, including Muhammad Shaar, had broken out of the El Arish jail and were headed for Gaza City.

In an attempt to regain control of the situation in the Sinai, Egyptian forces have increased their presence in the area by adding an estimated 800 soldiers to the fight. Even though their presence violates the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli treaty, it is believed the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has given the nod of approval.

That, of course makes, sense given the increased threat a militarized terror base in the Sinai poses for both countries. For its part, the Israeli IDF has also beefed up security along the Gaza border. However, this increase in troop strength is not just out of fear from terrorist activity, but also from a possible mass influx of Bedouins, who may flee from the unrest in Egypt into Israel.

Lastly, the sole vestige of an international presence in the Sinai appears to be on its way out, which will surely exacerbate the precarious situation. Disturbing reports have surfaced that the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), made up of mostly Americans and Canadians, is on maximum alert in its northern Sinai base and is awaiting evacuation to Europe, ending a thirty year presence in the region.

Most infuriatingly, despite evidence to the contrary, the Muslim Brotherhood still continues to play the role of benevolent peacemaker. Violent events unfolding in the Sinai reveal a far different view of the terrorist organization’s ulterior aims, however. For those who continue to invest in the idea of a nonviolent Brotherhood, we can only pray that these facts serve as a final warning.

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Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog,

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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