Four years have passed since the spread of terrorism in Sinai. The terrorist elements of Welaiet Sinaa “Sinai State” Organization (Previously named as Partisans of Jerusalem) managed to carry out their operations targeting the Egyptian army and police forces responsible for law enforcement in Sinai, as well as some civilians from the local tribes that are hostile to Welaiet Sinaa group.
War on terrorism in Sinai is not that long, and eliminating terrorism will only be achieved by defeating its will and thwarting its goals. The main goal of terrorism in Egypt is to change the identity of Egyptian state from nationalism to religionism, by working to fail the Egyptian state of the most important geo-strategic location in the Middle east & North Africa and the whole world, declaring the Islamic State on its territories, and establishing a strategic ideological base, expanding its existence through all possible geographical directions. This will increase the severity of the its threat and impact in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Terrorism in Sinai started in shape of a certain type of conflict, scientifically known as “Low Intensity Conflict”, which takes place between minorities in the state and the governmental army in an attempt to turn to the so-called “Civil War”, trying to control a village of North Sinai, isolating it from the state, declaring its the sovereignty of the armed groups, as happened in Deir al-Zour, Mosul and Sirte in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Accordingly (if it happens), it proves the illegitimacy of the government of the Egyptian state on that city, and clearly demonstrates to the international community and its organizations tow significant indicators of the failed state in Egypt: Loss of control of its territory, and of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein. This is what the Egyptian state is working successfully to not occur.
After the June 30, 2013, several armed groups gathered in the heart of the streets of El Arish (the largest cities in North Sinai and the capital of the province) and declared a “War Council” against the state. Subsequent seizures indicate that armed groups have obtained special weapons such as SAM 7 missiles, as well as Kornet Anti-Tank missiles, artillery rocket launchers, various ammunition and weapons, as well as elements of other nationalities (Revealed by subsequent security campaigns).
These armed terrorist groups exploited the spread of terrorist attacks in the valley and delta (including burning and destruction of 62 churches in one day after the dismantling of Rabaa’ sit-in on 14th of August 2014), extending its control over areas in central and northern Sinai, while South Sinai remained relatively calm.
The terrorist activities included bombings and strikes, it could paralyze the major cities of North Sinai (Arish, Sheikh Zuwaid, Rafah, Bir al-Abd), with attacks on armed forces across the coast and attempts to prevent electoral procedures).
Their attempt to seize by force large cities in North Sinai, launching several ground and coastal terrorist operations and in Al-Arish, aiming to declare the establishment of an “Islamic Emirate”, to show the failure of the state, through the same military tactics already implemented successfully in major cities in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Developing their tactics in Sinai to Gorilla War tactics (raids, ambushes, trying to capture SPs, weapons, equipment, .., indicating planning higher than their capabilities.
Egyptian Law Enforcement Forces are currently securing the entire coastal area and ensuring that there are no armed elements along the coast of North Sinai (from Egyptian Rafah to Port Said). Crushing all terrorist attempts to seize cities or impose geographical control over any populated area (the latest and greatest terrorist attack was the attempt to capture Sheikh Zuwaid, was crushed, the terrorist organization suffered heavy losses, and admitted defeat). The terrorist groups in Sinai a bit changed their tactics again, turning to the concept of small-scale operations, such as sniping soldiers, or trying to target forces during their movement on highways.
The terrorist organizations resorted to tricks such as setting up small ambushes (not exceeding five minutes) at night in some villages near Rafah and El-Arish, distributing flyers warning citizens against smoking cigarettes or cooperating with the forces, confirming their presence on the ground despite the strikes.
Terrorist armed attacks failed sharply; that after several attempts to capture towns in Sinai but failed, they tried during 2015/2016 to seize any fixed army or police checkpoints, but they also failed. After clearing one of the most important and dangerous bed spot in Sinai (al-Halal Mountain), the terrorist elements in Sinai resorted to campaigns to intimidate the population, and the assassination of the Christian Egyptians in El-Arish, claiming to “empty the city of the infidels,” and indeed triggered a wave of displacement of fear of terrorism.
The terrorist groups faced intensive efforts to eradicate them through the operations of the Law Enforcement Forces (army and police) in the villages (al-Barth, Mahdia, south of Rafah). Clashes erupted between the terrorists and the tribesmen in Sinai, especially the tribes of (Trabeen, Sawarka, Tih) and others, which announced their intention to confront terrorism, in what is called “Sinai Awakening”. The scene could be similar tribal groups formed by the United States in Iraq to counter al-Qaeda.
Welaiet Sinaa responded with a new brutal operation, killing hundreds of Muslim prayers in al-Arish Mosque in November 2017, the prayers were mostly elements of these tribes opposing to Weliet Sinai Terrorist Organization, as well as the implementation of executions of others from those tribes in al-Arish.
By end of November 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tasked General Mohamed Farid Hijazi the newly assigned as Chhief of General Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, to restore security and confronting terrorism in Sinai within three months ending by end of February 2018. Certainly, Egyptian armed forces have prepared an integrated plan to confront terrorism and restore security in Sinai, to be implemented through phases.
I expect that the first phase focuses on the preparation of the theater and the deployment of huge forces in Sinai from main branches of the armed forces to ensure successful achievement of its goal quickly and decisively. Securing maritime coasts and main roads, provided by high-level data collection and analysis procedures. Egyptian Armed Forces have recently conducted all types of reconnaissance over North Sinai. The areas of “Sheikh Zuwaid, Al-Barth, Al-Masawra and other important areas are targeted, it’s obviously a huge preparation for the next phase, in which the Air Force will use intensive fire of air blitz targeting the terrorist elements in their besieged areas. This phase may be carried out sequentially or in parallel with other phases according to the situation. Then the Egyptian special forces will carry out qualitative operation targeting the besieged terrorist elements in their holds or when they are trying to escape. Huge ground forces are to intervene in untypical formations to eliminate terrorist elements..
By: Sayed Ghoneim