Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

The violence escalates

Various incidents this week have shown that the violence is increasing in Sinai, writes Ahmed Eleiba

Al-Ahram Weekly

In the wake of the developments over recent weeks, the security situation in Sinai is no calmer today than it was, and various sources anticipate a rise in the tensions and further complications in Sinai’s seemingly intractable troubles.
Saleh Salam, a Sinai activist, told Al-Ahram Weekly that as he was passing the Qantara checkpoint in Sinai on Monday he saw an exchange of gunfire that wounded a police recruit.
In another, graver incident this week, two buildings, one belonging to General Intelligence and the other to Central Security, were bombed, the first in Rafah and the other in central Sinai.
Although official casualty figures have not been announced, eyewitnesses said that several people had been wounded in the vicinity of the buildings.
“The message is clear this time,” Salam said. “The state is the target, not just the security police. The attackers want the army, intelligence and all the other government presence out of the area, from the central zone to the border zones.”
Salam doubted that the assailants would be identified or caught because it has become easy for them to move around in Sinai. They had no connection with the Sinai tribes, he said, adding that many in Sinai believe that foreign elements are colluding with agents inside the country.
He added that many of the rumours circulating in Sinai following the two bombing incidents have spoken of the hand of Mossad being behind them, or of Afghans. It is also suspected that there could have been connections with some Bedouin outside the umbrella of the Matarid tribal federation who are said to have money and arms.
The bombs, planted at the foot of the buildings, went off within two hours of each other. Both buildings were still under construction at the time.
In the wake of the events, anti-explosive teams conducted sweeps of all other government buildings and infrastructure in the governorate as well as of the Al-Salam Bridge.
Security and Armed Forces were redeployed in large numbers and swatter teams were reinforced and prepared for field operations, especially in the areas of the checkpoints along the main North Sinai highway that links most towns and villages in the area.
On Monday morning, the security forces apprehended a truckload of weapons that included Garrad missiles presumed to be destined for Gaza via the border tunnels from Sinai. The arms were confiscated with the knowledge of the second field battalion, and the smugglers were taken into custody.
A military source said that the security forces were stepping up operations in order to bring smuggling to a complete halt in the territory. According to one political analyst, the main reason was that Cairo had committed itself to Washington to cut off all avenues of arms smuggling into Gaza following the recent truce between Hamas and Israel.
The intensification of the security measures was accompanied by rumours that US forces might arrive in Sinai to help deal with the deteriorating security situation. However, these rumours were denied by most army officials.
A military expert close to the scene said that Cairo opposed the presence of US troops in Sinai because this would constitute an “internationalisation of the problem” and signal that the situation in the area had spiralled beyond Egypt’s control, an impression that Israel wants to convey.
However, the source added that US soldiers make up almost half of the multinational force (MNF) in Sinai, which also contains a large number of Israeli soldiers. The latter is a gross violation of the provisions of the Camp David Accords but, the source said, the US was ultimately responsible for the MNF, not the UN.
The source also said that any scenario involving the arrival of US special forces in Sinai would harm the US more than Egypt in the light of the dismal record of these forces in a similar environment in Afghanistan.
In the aftermath of the attacks last week, a five-member ministerial team set off for Sinai in order to hold public meetings in the North Sinai governorate.
However, the meetings produced nothing new beyond routine protocol, said Ahmed Al-Soweirki, a member of the Sawarka tribe, one of the larger tribes in the Sheikh Zuwaid area.
“They gave us the usual promises, which we do not expect to come to anything,” Al-Soweirki said. “The cabinet itself is shaky, so why flirt with Sinai at such a critical time when flattery gets no one anywhere?”

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