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Increasing Militancy in the Sinai Peninsula

3 MINS READJul 11, 2013 | 21:21 GMT

Militants killed two people in an attack on a security checkpoint in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula July 10. This attack is just one in a string of militant attacks in the Sinai since the removal of former President Morsi from power. The security situation in the Sinai has worsened since the fall of Mubarak in 2011 as militants have exploited the distracted central government. Attacks in the peninsula are likely to increase and intensify over time as Islamists previously associated with the Muslim Brotherhood become radicalized, and as existing groups threaten more attacks against security forces as a consequence of the removal of Morsi.

In addition to the attack on the security checkpoint July 10, that same day militants attempted to assassinate the commander of the Second Field Army. Prior to that, there has been at least one militant attack each day against security and military forces in the Sinai since Morsi's ouster July 3. Prior to the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government, militancy in the Sinai also plagued security forces. After the fall of Mubarak, militancy increased due to the lack of political unity in Cairo.

Additionally, Morsi's campaigns to secure the Sinai were constrained by potential backlash against the government from Islamist and Salafist political groupings. The removal of former President Morsi, however, has spurred even more militant activity. Previously, existing jihadist groups in the Sinai, such as the Salafi Jihadi group — one of the biggest in the region — has called for increased attacks on Egyptian security forces in response to the police and military's "repressive practices." This was the first direct threat by the group against Egyptian forces; previously, the group had only ever threatened attacks against Israel.

Additionally, increased militancy is likely in the future as some Islamists become disillusioned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the pursuit of democracy as a means of achieving their goals. In response to the increase in militancy, the Egyptian army has bolstered their forces in the Sinai, sending more tanks, armor and military personnel to contain the situation. Over the past few days the armed forces have allegedly killed roughly 200 gunmen and arrested 45 others in the Sinai. In addition to this, Egyptian authorities have stated an operation will begin soon to remove militants from the peninsula. Cairo is waiting for the approval from Israel for this bolstering of forces, though Israel has approved several military buildups in the past and is likely to approve this, considering the negative effects of militancy on Israel's security.

What happens in the Sinai not only affects Israel but also has serious consequences for the Gaza Strip, bordering the peninsula. In attempts to curb militancy, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing, connecting Gaza to the Sinai, after Morsi was removed. It was only reopened July 10 for a few days to allow stranded travelers to cross the border. This closure of Rafah and the tightening of security along the border restricts the fuel shipments to Gaza, forcing the already financially strained Gaza leadership to bring fuel through Israel, which is much more expensive. The Egyptian military has proved it will do what is necessary to secure the Sinai as it attempts not only to maintain control over the peninsula but all of Egypt. Maintaining the security situation will be critical as the country undergoes yet another political transition, which will likely be accompanied by more protests, clashes and sectarian violence.

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