Thursday, April 12, 2012

12-Apr-12: Additional peaceful serenity from the Sinai and its overlords

A previous gasline blast in Sinai, this one near
the town of El-Arish [AFP]
A week ago, as Passover was about to start, we wrote ["5-Apr-12: The Egyptians, Passover and the wanderings in Sinai"] about three rockets fired on Israeli's major holiday resort, Eilat, filled with visitors preparing to enjoy the Pesach celebrations. We paraphrased Egypt's chief of security who had made two couldn't-be-clearer statements in the wake of those incoming rockets.
"One - they didn't come from Egyptian territory. And two - in case anyone might have thought that there were security issues in the Sinai, well - there aren't."
We noted there that the safety of the Sinai looks very different from where we are sitting. The gas pipeline running from Egypt to Israel, as one for-instance, has been bombed at least thirteen times in the last year. Despite this, Egypt's military supremo Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi said in May 2011 [see "Egypt: Sinai is 100% secure"] responding to US concern, said "The security situation in Sinai is 100% safe."

Spokespeople for the new post-Mubarak Egypt government said in November 2011 that they would "tighten security along the pipeline by installing alarms and recruiting security patrols from Bedouin tribesmen in the area". But there is no clear evidence that they have, and certainly no significant uptick in the security situation there. In reality, and in the simplest of terms, the story of Egyptian Sinai is
Lawlessness... home to an intricate set of historic, political, social and economic conditions that have transformed it into a frontier where the state has ceased to exist.
That's what the editor of the Egypt Independent called it four days ago. That was right after the gas pipeline was blown up for the fourteenth time. This Associated Press report, evidently not paying that much attention to what Egypt's chief of security asserted, says
"Islamist militants... have stepped up activity in Sinai, taking advantage of a security vacuum caused by a thin police presence in the post-Mubarak era."
Israel's defensive measures and policies along our southern border and in this ongoing war in general are, fortunately, not driven by the insights of Egypt's government security experts.

UPDATE Thursday 6:00 pm: Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz today says
"Cairo has reinforced troop levels in the [Sinai] peninsula, but they are few and far between, and smuggling continues apace... Despite the military operation and the reinforcements, which according to Israeli sources add up to seven battalions beyond the deployment levels specified in the Camp David treaties, the Egyptian army does not dare position isolated soldiers along the main road of northern Sinai out of fears of Bedouin attacks... At first sight, the military operation looks impressive, as more soldiers and APCs move in from their bases in western Sinai, near the Suez Canal... But it is obvious very quickly that the reinforcements are just sitting in place. The new battalions were placed only along the main road. They do not conduct patrols along it, do not leave the road to search in El-Arish or Rafah and certainly do not come anywhere near the Bedouin camps near the mountainous regions south of the coastal plain."

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