Friday, August 02, 2013

2-Aug-13: Sinai: More killings, rockets and lawless chaos

The scene outside the Sinai Sun Hotel in El Arish in the
early hours of this morning [Image Source]
A few days ago, the Washington Post focused on the
"violent insurgency... burrowing fast into the sands of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The rapid thud of machine-gun fire and the explosions of rocket-propelled grenades have begun to shatter the silence of the desert days and nights here with startling regularity, as militants assault the military and police forces stationed across this volatile territory that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip." [Washington Post]
From this vantage point, the news from there keeps worrying. Overnight (it's now Friday morning), the Sinai Sun hotel in the North Sinai town of Al-Arish came under rocket attack. Ahram Online reports that an RPG - a rocket-propelled grenade - was fired directly at the building around midnight, and struck the hotel's rear entrance, leaving a huge hole in the building. Thick smoke billowed from the building. The news channel says no casualties are reported. But almost casually the report goes on to say
Earlier in the day, a policeman was shot dead in a similar attack on the same hotel. Most of the hotel guests are said to be security personnel. [Ahram Online]
A later report in Arabic from a different source this morning says it was a bomb, not an RPG, and there were injuries.

Life down there, already somewhat cheap, is getting more dangerous. Ahram is blunt about how what it terms
"the lawless Sinai Peninsula, near Egypt's borders with Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, has been hit with almost daily attacks by hard-line Islamist militants since the army's ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the country's first freely elected president, on 3 July."
The Sinai Sun hotel was last in the news just 12 days ago. In a report headed "Bloody Sunday night in Sinai", another Egyptian news source said a security checkpoint
located in front of the Sinai Sun hotel, where a number of police officers were staying, was also attacked, prompting security forces to respond with live fire against the assailants. They were aided by Apache helicopters who conducted intense aerial surveillance in the airspace located above the attacks.
The travel guide Lonely Planet calls the Sinai Sun (rooms from $14 a night) one of its recommended hotels in Al-Arish. Evidently the Egyptian police agree; perhaps the jihadists too.

El Arīsh, with 115,000 inhabitants, is 344 kilometers from Cairo and the capital of Egypt's North Sinai governate. Its significance to Israelis is that it is a mere hour's drive from Egypt's Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

The impact on Gazans is non-trivial. As we noted yesterday, Egypt's security clampdown on Sinai is impacting ordinary Gazans in dramatic ways. The latest development there is that the Egyptian forces and border guards
managed to destroy 38 underground tanks used to store fuel at the northeastern border in Sinai, an Armed Forces spokesperson said. In a statement on Facebook, the spokesperson said 28 of the tanks were used to store diesel and carried 634,000 liters and 10 tanks contained gasoline, with a storage capacity of 2,600,000 liters. Meanwhile, MENA reported that 300,000 liters of diesel were seized before reaching Gaza as well as pumps used to pump fuel to Gaza. [Source: Egypt Independent News

No comments: