A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Egypt's Campaign in North Sinai

Is there anything that both the Israeli Government and Hamas agree upon? Why yes: they both are supportive of Egypt's current military operations in Northern Sinai.

In the wake of a series of bombings of Egyot's gas pipeline to Israel, an outburst of militant violence recently in al-‘Arish, and the apperarance of flyers in Rafah claiming to speak for "Al-Qa‘da in Sinai," Egyptian Army units have moved into northern Sinai, restoring order and arresting militants.

Egypt had to obtain prior consent from Israel, since under the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, eastern Sinai is demilitarized. Hamas in Gaza reportedly has also approved the operation.

There are also reports that Ramzi Muhammad al-Mowafi, "the chemist," a former personal doctor of Usama bin Laden, escaped from prison during the Revolution, and has since been spotted operating in Sinai.

Leftwing activist Hossam al-Hamalawy has wondered if this is a "Wag the Dog" operation to increase support for the Army; noting that as recently as June, the Head of the National Security Sector (State Security's replacement) told reporters there were no al-Qa‘ida supporters anywhere in Egypt. (Report at link is in Arabic.)

But there's no doubt that her has been escalating violence in Sinai, the bloodshed in al-‘Arish, and the attacks on the pipeline, and that Islamist militants of some variety are involved. Nor is Mowafi believed to be the only militant to have escaped prison in January.

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