Al Arish, Asharq Al-Awsat- Various prominent figures in the Middle East have expressed their concerns of the apparent imminent danger displayed by combatant groups moving to the Sinai Peninsula situated in Egypt. A popular destination amongst Israeli tourists, the Netanyahu administration was among those who issued out a warning urging Israeli’s to return to their homes and avoid the rising the danger of the region.
Fears over the safety of visitors to the peninsula aren’t unfounded. The Sinai bombings of 2004 targeted tourist hotels and killed 34 whilst injuring 171. The Israeli Prime Minister previously aired his concerns over what he believed to be the “lawlessness” state Sinai was descending into which contrasted greatly to the three decades of peace the country held with Egypt. In response to this, Arab critics have said the current unease and rising tensions act as a motive for Israel to step into the Sinai region and “achieve its ambitions under the pretext of the deteriorating security conditions”.
A growing number of sources have claimed that armed groups have made camp in the area, which resulted from the fall of the Mubarak’s government causing a lack of adequate security and creating a safe haven for groups with extreme Islamists fundamentalist values. According to informed members of the Egyptian security forces, Sinai’s lack of military personal allows such groups to build upon their resources and plan their attacks without fear of being roused. Further information has unearthed that if they are not stopped soon, their growing array of nationalities and expertise will propel them to be a frightening brunt. This appears to already be underway if the reports that they are in the possession of smuggled weaponry, en route from Libya and Sudan, are held to be true.
Many residents of Rafah, a prominent city located in North Sinai, have come forth with their accounts. They claimed that the groups are attracting young men with the promises of riches and, in some cases, paying for their marriages. Such a view of these young men doesn’t adhere with the previous notion presented to the world of the young Middle Eastern liberals who set and carried the protests in their countries. However, the danger felt by the Sinai community suggests that the tides have turned and the men have found another battle against perceived injustice to fight. On the other hand, reports have suggested that many of these men are escaped prisoners; their freedom gained amidst the chaos created by the revolution and greatly adding to their threat.
Egyptian political figures have contributed to the matter, the majority believing that these groups are exploiting the country’s current fragile “loose state in which they come and do whatever they want”. Indeed they, some of which have been identified to be Palestinian organisations, have not been particularly guarded with their intensions. Such groups as “the Mujahadeen Shura Council” have recently posted a video on the internet horrifically boasting of their targets near the Egyptian border with Israel and claiming that such actions are “a gift to our brothers” in other similar extremist groups. Similarly, another Jihadist organisation took responsibility for the calculated bombing of the main gas pipeline which supplied gas to the “Zionist Entity’. What these groups hold in common is the adherent view that they must eradicate infidels, in other words non-Muslims. This is further evidenced by the horrendous suicide bombings carried out by the Jihad Group, also believed to be situated in Sinai, in the Israeli and US embassies in the capital city of Uzbekistan. The attacks killed at least nine people whilst wounding many more.
However, some have been questioning the credibility of the danger posed. As far as individuals belonging to a town predominantly occupied by the desert dwelling Bedouin group see the fears are merely based on rumours. They have claimed that while they have heard of the presence of militant settlements in the deserts of Sinai, they haven’t come across them. While they cannot yet confirm the militant existence in the area, it would appear that the security force is depending on the Bedouin to attempt restraining the groups. This appears to be the preferred route as opposed to armed intervention as to ease the tension between the Bedouins and force. Furthermore, the security forces consider armed intervention to result in large losses that simply could not be afforded at amidst the country’s new developments.