Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1380, (8 - 14 February 2018)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1380, (8 - 14 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Fake news

American and Israeli news reports claim Tel Aviv has launched air strikes against the terrorist Islamic State in Sinai despite the repudiation of the Egyptian military, reports Ahmed Eleiba



The Israeli daily Haaretz on Monday joined The New York Times (NYT) and The Washington Post in publishing an article claiming Israel is taking part in military operations in Sinai with Cairo’s approval.

This came despite the fact that Military Spokesman Colonel Tamer Al-Rifaai repudiated the claims first published by the Times.

Under the headline: “Israeli Fighter Jets Aren’t Enough to Solve Egypt’s ISIS Problem”, Israeli analyst Anshel Pfeffer wrote that the army in Egypt is still incapable of eliminating Islamic State  (IS) Sinai affiliate even though he notes that “[by] the end of 2016, air strikes had decimated ISIS fighters; they were down to about 300 men” from around 1,000.

Pfeffer then added, “But the Egyptian army failed to pursue its advantage on the ground and Wilayat Sinai soon rebounded, reinforced by new commanders and fighters who had fled Syria and Iraq, with experience and knowhow gained in the Caliphate’s battles. Just as in last year’s battles of Mosul and Raqqa it took a ground force to finally rout ISIS from its main strongholds…”

Commenting on the Haaretz article, an Egyptian security analyst told Al-Ahram Weekly that the beginning of the report relies on the NYT article which was denied by the military spokesman. In other words, the report relies, not on an Israeli narrative, but on an American one that has been discredited by official Egyptian sources.

Secondly, there is talk about how the relocation of IS members to the Sinai caused the change in the situation there. “It appears that Israel wants to take advantage of this notion — despite the clear reference, in the article itself, to the noticeable decline in the number of fighters before that development — in order to suggest that Egypt failed to combat the organisation,” the analyst added.

Yet, even in the face of that change, the military campaign has continued without ceasing in the areas in which the organisation surfaced in North Sinai. “Clearly, certain parties want to create a situation for purposes that serve their particular agendas,” he added.

“We are not speaking of an isolated phenomenon. There is a concerted campaign involving not just the NYT but also The Washington Post which published the same story at the beginning of the week, citing Western sources and not Israeli sources.”

Moreover, The Washington Post prepared a second article on the same subject, appearing on 5 February beneath the title, “Israel’s growing ties with former Arab foes”. It reiterated much of the same, again in spite of the refutations by the relevant military sources in Egypt that Cairo had asked Israel to conduct strikes in the Sinai.

“This type of campaign is hardly new. We’ve grown used to it,” remarked an Egyptian military source wryly on the concerted US-Israeli campaign against Egypt’s performance in the fight against terrorism in Sinai.

Said Okasha, managing editor of the periodical Mukhtarat Israiliya (Israeli Selections), published by Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, observed that Egyptian foreign policy towards Israel has always struck a balance between national and Arab regional interests. “This balance has sometimes cost Egypt in the form of clashes with Israel and the US which jeopardised extensive Egyptian national interests, especially in terms of weapons imports from the US or security understandings with Israel at a time when Egypt was most vulnerable to terrorist activity in Sinai supported by various regional powers.”

Okasha added, “many political commentators in Egypt and abroad have tried and continue to try to mar Egypt’s record of success by disseminating rumours and launching spurious projects in order to distort Egyptian foreign policy. Among the most recent of such attempts are the rumours circulated by political and media figures in Israel and the US to the effect that Egypt had agreed to land swap projects or that Cairo had given Israel permission to conduct military strikes against terrorist groups in Sinai.

The purpose of such ruses, according to Okasha, is two-fold: disparage Egypt’s military achievements and incite Egyptian, Arab and Muslim opinion against the Egyptian government. “However,” Okasha said, “those parties have never substantiated their claims with conclusive evidence. Instead, they rely on newspaper reports that are short on professionalism and shorter on accurate information.”


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