Post link 29 August 2014, 18:30
The Islamist revolt in the peninsula grew rapidly after Mubarak’s fall. Now, neither government forces nor their jihadist foes can control the area the last ten years, radical Islamists have gained a foothold among the disaffected tribes of the Sinai peninsula and now a full-blown insurgency is in progress. The slow-burning conflict, marked by almost daily killings and occasional major violent convulsions, is likely to persist without either the state or the rebels tipping the balance decisively.Now, northern Sinai changes hands daily – the jihadists mounting checkpoints in order to uncover informers at night. When day breaks, the army emerges to erect its own checkpoints, sometimes launching raids backed by Apache attack helicopters and tanks on what it believes to be rebel safe-houses. This is the broad pattern of the government's conflict with Islamist militants in northern Sinai, the wilderness sandwiched between the Suez Canal and the Israeli border.

The militants are strong enough to cause significant human and infrastructural damage but too weak to wrest control from the government. The major concern is how strong they could become in the future.

For the government, the fight carries major risks. Several villages have become ghost towns after the army demolished many homes. Villagers sleep in the towns, anxious not to be caught in the crossfire and return only to tend crops. Interviews with northern Sinai residents suggest that, while successful in immediate security terms, the state's counter-terrorist campaign is generating deep public disaffection because arrests and violence are often indiscriminate.'s jihadists gained a new lease of life when several activists escaped from prison during the 2011 revg5tolt against President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and from the brief reign of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012-13. Although the insurgents are few, several high-profile attacks have altered the course of Egyptian politics. On 2 September 2013, the military launched a new north Sinai campaign in earnest, raiding villages, targeting militants and destroying homes. December and January saw the jihadists retaliate with car bombings of police buildings in the Nile Delta, assassinations of senior police officers and the shooting down of an Apache helicopter with a portable surface-to-air missile near Rafah on 25 January, the third anniversary of Egypt's revolution.

Holy House supporters

Then the tide turned the government's way. A series of raids – particularly one on a safe house in Qalyoubia Governorate on 19 March – appeared to smash the operation of the Ansar Beit el Makdis (Supporters of the Holy House, i.e. Jerusalem) in the Nile Delta (AC Vol 55 No 12, Red sea missile drama). ABM is the most prominent Islamist organisation in Sinai. Its main leader is said to be Shady el Menaie from the Sawerka tribe.

ABM declared itself in 2012 amid a spate of bombings of the gas pipeline to Israel (AC Vol 53 No 10, Israel and the energy crisis). Before the uprising and the military coup of July 2013 that brought Field Marshal Abdel Fatah Khalil el Sisi to power, ABM focused on attacking Israel, launching missiles there and conducting cross-border raids (AC Vol 54 No 14, The agony and the ecstasy). After the July 2013 coup against President Mohamed Mursi and the mass killing that followed, ABM began to target the police and army but it maintains it does not deliberately kill civilians, other than suspected informers. On 5 March, Israeli commandos had intercepted the Klos-C, a vessel carrying rockets, assumed to be bound for Gaza, and explosives, reportedly en route to Sinai, off the coast of Sudan (AC Vol 55 No 8, Saudi Arabia targets Khartoum). Since then, ABM operations have been less deadly in both north Sinai and the Delta.

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