Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: The battle continues

Al-Ahram Weekly

What happened on Wednesday, 1 July, in Sheikh Zuweid was not your usual hit-and-run attack by Islamic State (IS) wannabes. The scale of the attack, as well as its timing, suggests a broader conspiracy, one with regional and international dimensions.

The attack, let’s not forget, was timed to mark the 30 June 2013 Revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood. So it was partly an attempt by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to punish the Egyptians for bringing down a regime that was trying to turn their country into a fascist theocracy.

By thwarting the attack, the Egyptian army proved once again that the conspirators who fly the black flag of IS are not going to gain a foothold in this country. They will live and die on the fringes, and their attempts to break the morale of the Egyptians will be in vain.

What happened in Sheikh Zuweid was a landmark battle in an existential war pitting our country against terrorists and their backers.

In the 1973 War, our army made history in battles with Israel. Today, 42 years later, our army has even a bigger job. This battle is no longer about a well-defined enemy, but an assortment of enemies. One of those, the Muslim Brotherhood, struck roots in all parts of the country, like a spreading cancer.

The battle for Sheikh Zuweid must also be seen as part of a regional confrontation. The same forces that dismembered Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen are turning their attention to us. To redraw the map of the region, to create mini-states at will, to redesign the patterns of power to suit Israel’s desires, Egypt too must fall.

The Zionist-American scheme that wreaked havoc on Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen is not going to succeed unless Egypt, too, falls apart. When the Muslim Brotherhood was in power the group received ample US backing because it promised to cede parts of Rafah, Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid to Gaza.

The militants who marched on Sheikh Zuweid on 1 July were trying to do just that. They were trying to carve off Sheikh Zuweid to make it part of their nascent Islamic mini-state.

Their aim was thwarted, but they will try again.

Let’s keep in mind what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the Cairo-based daily Al-Akhbar in December 2014. “Morsi offered me 1,600 kilometres of Sinai,” Abbas said.

“Bring all of Gaza’s inhabitants to Shobra and we will give them hot meals,” was the utterance Abbas attributed to Morsi in this earth-shaking interview.

Since then, there have been further leaks. One spoke of a Hamas plan  backed by Qatar, Turkey and Israel  to force the Egyptian army to pull out of northern Sinai. Another spoke about a scheme by former Israeli National Security Advisor Giora Eiland to create a Palestinian state in Gaza with added land from Rafah, Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid.

The plan, just as Abbas had said, involved adding 1,600 kilometres from Sinai to Gaza.  Hamas, other reports suggest, has a plan to provoke Israel into another war. Once the Israelis invade, the Qassam Brigades would force part of the local population to push through the Egyptian fences into Sinai, thus creating a new status quo.

What happened in Sheikh Zuweid may have been stage one of such a scenario. This may explain the unusually high number of attackers, and the sophistication of the weaponry they used.

The recent battle the army fought against the terrorists is no longer part of a cat-and-mouse chase in the rugged terrains of a distant peninsula. It is part of a battle to break Egypt into pieces, then swallow it one piece at a time.

To win this war, we cannot fight it with the army alone. We need every institution in this country to be involved. And we must engage all the patriotic forces, including the youth, in the ongoing confrontation.

It may be a good idea, also, for the government to form a war council and keep it in session. We need all the expertise we have to defeat the terrorists and their allies.

Over the past few days, we heard our military commanders giving highly specialised opinions on the battle in Sinai. We also heard that Sinai inhabitants offered detailed information about the terrorists, but that their reports were ignored.

Sinai’s inhabitants helped us win previous wars in Sinai, and we need their help to win this new one.

We need to examine every detail of this confrontation, assess our points of success and failure, and come up with a strategy to defeat the militants.

To win this war, we have to rally the nation behind its government and army. To do this, we have to be transparent and take bold steps to eliminate poverty and improve education and other social services.

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