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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Egypt’s military operation in Sinai continues; the state’s Interior Ministry identified the suspected militants responsible for border attacks

Egyptian troops in Sinai

Egypt’s Security Forces have already identified seven people, suspected of involvement in the border attacks in Sinai, according to Egypt’s Interior Minister Ahmad Gamal El-Deen.

The attack which took place on 5 August 2012 on the border close to Rafah was one of the deadliest and most terrible since 1973 war with Israel. The Egyptian border checkpoint along the border between Egypt, Israel and Gaza was suddenly attacked by a group of armed militants. The soldiers were attacked at the beginning of their dinner, breaking the fast during Muslim holy month Ramadan. The attack left 16 Egyptian border guards killed and 7 wounded.

Egyptian Security Forces and Military launched a massive offensive in Sinai in attempt to target those responsible for the attack and to fight the terrorists operating in the region.

The territory of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula turned into the land of lawlessness in recent years, with the situation significantly deteriorated after ouster of Egypt’s long standing president Hosni Mubarak and lack of security in Sinai.

Under the terms of Camp David peace treaty signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979 the territory of Sinai is divided into several zones. The military presence, numbers and types of weapons in some zones, such as so called “Zone A” and “Zone B”, which are close to Egypt-Israeli border, must be coordinated with Israel.

According to peace accords some of the border territories stayed demilitarized, with only police and light military presence. It made the situation in the region complicated, as Egypt faced troubles in controlling the security in those Sinai regions.

After the events of January 25 Revolution and ouster of Hosni Mubarak police was almost withdrawn from Sinai, so the situation has worsened, with numerous terrorist elements and several terrorists cells, including Al-Qaeda, operating on the territory of Sinai Peninsula. Some of them are of Egyptian origin, but a lot of those militants infiltrated Egypt using the network of underground tunnels connecting Egypt with occupied Gaza.

Ahmed Gamal El-Deen, Egypt's Minister of Interior
The border attacks on the territory of Sinai became a serious threat to the security within Egypt and also led to escalation of the relationships with the neighboring Israel, especially after summer attack near Eilat, which took place last summer.

But this Augusts’ attack was really one of the most terrible, and it was followed by the series of clashes between unnamed armed militants and Egyptian soldiers and policemen in the border cities, such as El-Arish.

As a respond to those events Egyptian Armed Forces conducted a massive military operation in the region. The network of underground tunnels was demolished, according to the order of now retired Mohamed Hussein Tantawy, who occupied post of head of SCAF and Defense Minister. The massive offensive still continues in Sinai and is headed now by Egypt’s current Defense Minister Abdel Fatah El-Sissi and Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy.

The additional troops and military forces were deployed in the region, along with the tanks, heavy weapons, armored vehicles and even air forces used during the military operation. Such a move sparked concerns of Israel, as Egypt has brought its additional armed forces in the Sinai territories which have to remain demilitarized, and Israeli authority even accused Egypt of violation the terms of Camp David, but as a result Israeli side approved Egypt’s request for deploying the additional forces and welcomed its fight against the terrorists in Sinai.

During the military operation which is named “Operation Eagle” 11 militants were killed and 23 suspected persons were arrested by Egyptian Security Forces. The huge amount of arms and weapons, including some armored vehicles and a few boxes with Israeli made ammunition, was confiscated by Egyptian military.

The relationships between Egyptian authorities and security forces and the local Bedouin tribes still remain tense, what makes the conducting of the operation more difficult, as some of local Bedouin residents are helping those militants. So this situation makes the operation harder. Another problem is the specific of Sinai region, with its mountains and deserts making the military operations and moving with the heavy weapons and tanks more complicated.

Abdel Fatah El-Sissi, Egypt's Defense Minister,
current Head of SCAF
But, according to Ahmed Gamal El-Deen, Egypt’s Interior Minister, Egyptian Security Forces have already identified those suspected of the involvement in the deadly attack and killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers. One of them is of Egyptian origin and reportedly belonged to the local jihadist group in Sinai, which was not very active during last time, but which espoused the so called “Takfiri” doctrine, which is generally hostile toward the modern society and considers it being godless, that’s why the members of this society could be attacked. Egypt’s Interior Minister but doesn’t mention the nationalities or any details regarding the personalities of other suspected militants identified by Egyptian forces.

It’s also worth mentioning that earlier in August Egyptian side received from Israel the rests of the bodies of six militants responsible for the Rafah border attack and killed by IDF on Israeli border. Forensic official was conducted the procedures to identify the bodies and took the samples for the DNA tests, but it was said there is almost impossible to identify those bodies due to their conditions and lack of high technology devices. But it was stated that all of those militants were of Arab features and their age was between twenty and thirty years. They also were wearing Egyptian military uniform made in Nablus, Palestine.

According to Egyptian officials further information regarding the personalities of those identified suspected militants is to be revealed soon. Meanwhile, Egyptian military operation still continues in Sinai, despite the fact that Egypt started to withdraw its tanks and to redeploy its troops in the region. The operation will continue until the terrorists’ and criminal network will be eliminated in Sinai and security will be restored. Egyptian authorities are keen to maintain stable and safe situation in Sinai in order to start developing this region.