El-Arish, Asharq Al-Awsat – Egyptian security sources revealed that a number of Sinai-based jihadists had completely disappeared, increasing the likelihood of a retaliatory strike being carried out against Israel following the killing of two prominent Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip last week. The Egyptian security source also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Cairo was in the possession of information confirming the presence of a terrorist sleeper cell in hiding in the mountains of the Sinai Peninsula, adding this sleeper cell was awaiting “zero hour” to launch their retaliatory attack.
The Egyptian security source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that Egyptian authorities are in a race against time to obtain actionable information about the nature of the planned operation, and whether this will target Red Sea tourists or Israel directly. This comes after Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis threatened to carry out large-scale revenge attacks against Israel after an Israeli air strike killed Tawhid wal-Jihad emir Hisham al-Saedini and Ansar al Sunnah emir Ashraf al-Sabah on Saturday.
The security source, who is based in northern Sinai, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “until now, we have no information about this operation, but the disappearance of a large number of jihadist elements over the past period increases the likelihood of a large-scale armed operation being launched within Sinai or based from Egyptian territory.” The source said that Egypt’s security and intelligence apparatus is doing everything in its power to obtain any information about any prospective operation in this regard.
He added that Egyptian security forces do not intend to carry out any pre-emptive operations in the Sinai Peninsula in the forthcoming period, stressing that the Egyptian authorities have no desire to increase tensions in the region or escalate any potential conflict.
The security source also revealed that Egypt’s security apparatus is in possession of confirmed information that a large number of jihadists are in hiding in the mountainous regions of southern Sinai. It is extremely difficult for the Egyptian military and security forces to reach these remote mountainous regions, particularly without logistical support from the local population.
The Egyptian security source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the jihadists who have disappeared most likely represent a sleeper cell waiting for “zero hour” to launch their attack. He added that the security forces in Sinai have been in a state of high alert since the threats regarding a retaliatory attack issued by the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group.
Sources also confirmed that there is tension between the Egyptian security apparatus and the local Bedouin population in Sinai, adding this is most likely affecting Egypt’s intelligence-gathering capabilities.
Local eye-witnesses residing on the border between Egypt and Israel confirmed that the border region is witnessing large-scale security and military mobilization, particularly by Israeli military forces which have stepped up their patrols in the region.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis issued a statement threatening revenge attacks against Israel following the targeted assassination of its senior leaders on Saturday. The statement read “we in Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis say to the Jews that the blood of our brothers in Palestine is our blood and their revenge is ours, and the blood of Abu al-Waleed [Hisham al-Saedini] and Abu al-Bara’a [Ashraf al-Sabah] will not go in vain without repayment. It is retaliation and just punishment against your blood and security, so wait for our response and the pain of our revenge.”