Friday, July 05, 2013

5-Jul-13: Out in the desert, things are heating up again

Not so effective: Egyptian forces demonstrate their presence in Sinai
[Image Source: Reuters]
As we have written here numerous times in the past, the Sinai desert that separates Israel from the power and control center of Egypt is a kind of danger-early-warning mechanism that highlights in generally brutal ways what's ahead.

The peninsula has become more and more an outlaw domain where the long arm of Cairo's law and order fails to reach. The result is chaos when it's not too serious; death and destruction when more so.

For the moment, the events in Cairo are on the minds of news reporters and analysts, but Sinai is where the complicated shades of Egypt's grey become blacker and whiter. This morning, there are (largely ignored) reports from multiple Sinai locations of
coordinated rocket and machine gun attacks by militants on army checkpoints and a police base in the restive Sinai... Hardcore militants have used the sparsely populated north of the peninsula as a launching pad for attacks on security forces and neighbouring Israel.
This, according to AFP. Over at the Jerusalem Post, they have some additional details:
  • Islamist gunmen staged multiple attacks on security forces in Egypt's troubled Sinai Peninsula early on Friday, two days after the army overthrew elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, security sources and state television reported.
  • The security sources said a soldier was killed and two were wounded when a police station in Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip came under rocket fire. The police post is close to the local headquarters of military intelligence.
  • Earlier, attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at army checkpoints guarding El-Arish airport, close to the border with the Gaza Strip and Israel, in the latest of a string of security incidents in the lawless region, the sources said. [Jerusalem Post]
It may be even worse. Al-Jazeera is reporting that gunmen attacked no fewer than five military checkpoints in el-Arish and Sheik Zweid in the early hours of this morning. 

Israeli alarm bells are, of course, ringing. Around 9:30 last night (Thursday) there were reports here in Israel (as far as we can tell, nowhere else) of explosions heard in Eilat, the Israeli city closest to Sinai and Egypt. While there is no evidence at this point of a rocket attack (and although some second-tier news sources claimed to know that is what it was), the police have still not identified either the source or any evidence of incoming rockets.
Two blasts were heard at around 9:30 p.m. throughout the southern city, according to witnesses, but the red alert rocket warning siren was not triggered nor were there any reports of injuries or damage. Security forces launched a search of the area but said they could not confirm what caused the blast.... Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi said earlier on Thursday that while he does not envision Morsi's ouster posing a security threat to Israel, risk could come from Sinai, where decreased presence of the Egyptian army could present an opportunity for Islamist militants to act from the peninsula against Israel. [Jerusalem Post]
As we wrote last night, a hot summer appears to be ahead.

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