Tuesday, November 06, 2012

6-Nov-12: The volcano that is Sinai

Sinai gunmen: "Unknown assailants"
While most of our readers are as pre-occupied as we are with elections today in the United States, the southern border region of Israel continues to show worrying signs of descending into chaos and even more violence.

Our last post about the spiraling-downwards state of the Sinai peninsula ["3-Nov-12: Sinai: Spinning out of Cairo's grip, creating major Israeli headaches"] went up only three days ago. Today, the situation there grew  a notch worse.

Gunmen critically wound Egyptian general in Sinai attack
Attackers shoot security officers and steal their cars in series of incidents against security forces
Associated Press | November 6, 2012
EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — A senior Egyptian police officer was shot and wounded Tuesday in the second recent attack of its kind on security forces in the country’s turbulent northern Sinai region. Security officials said Inspector General Selim Said el-Gamal was riding in a police car with other officers in the provincial capital of el-Arish when attackers in an unmarked white truck opened fire at their vehicle. Officials said el-Gamal stumbled out of the car after he was shot and that the driver and other officers ran for cover by fleeing the vehicle. Some of the assailants — who had fired from the bed of their truck — took off with the police vehicle. Later the same day, officials said gunmen ambushed an army truck in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid just outside el-Arish, stealing the vehicle that had been transporting fuel to nearby bases and checkpoints.
...el-Gamal was shot in the neck and is in critical condition. He was airlifted from el-Arish to Cairo for treatment... Since Mubarak’s ouster, militants have said they aim to create an Islamic emirate in Sinai... The attacks are the latest in a string of assaults on Egyptian military and police in northern Sinai, where militants have grown emboldened since last year’s uprising that left a security void in the Sinai Peninsula. The area borders the Palestinian Gaza Strip and Israel.
Oddly, or perhaps not, Al Ahram, Egypt's largest newspaper and entirely controlled by the Egyptian state [source], relegates its brief report of the attack to a minor, almost invisible location on its website. It says the attack was carried out on the Egyptian Inspector of General Security, whom it names as Lieutenant General Selim El-Gammal, by "unknown assailants". The rather laconic report ends with this sentence:
The Sinai Peninsula, a largely desert area bordering Israel, has been the site of several attacks by unknown assailants, generally believed to be extremists.
The events being reported are bad enough, but the news reporting, and what it signifies, is worse. AP frames these increasingly disturbing attacks as the work of 'militants' while Egypt's most widely circulated paper says they are 'unknown assailants' who might be 'extremists'. Neither one of them manages to use the "T" word.

Haaretz here in Israel is less delicate. It carries an analytical piece today by Zvi Barel entitled "With Egypt's Morsi distracted by politics, Sinai's volcano of terror is about to erupt". While the headline says it all, Barel explains what neither AP nor Al Ahram evidently will:
In August it really looked as if the Egyptian army and Morsi intended to operate intensively and continuously against the radical groups, and Morsi even obtained the support of Hamas’ Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh, who promised to confront these groups’ offshoots in Gaza. But apparently these armed cells have gathered in the mountainous regions of the central Sinai, in areas where it is difficult for the regular army to operate. It also seems that the relative calm in September led to a thinning out of the military forces... It’s difficult for Morsi to use the required measure of military pressure against the Salafist groups in the Sinai. He is trying to maneuver between these two Salafist streams, but Sinai can’t wait. Any day now it is liable to erupt beyond the “routine” violence to produce terror attacks against Israel and make managing foreign policy vis a vis Israel even more complicated for Morsi.

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