|Sinai insurgency (2011–present)|
|Part of the Arab Winter, the Egyptian Crisis, and the Insurgency in Egypt (2013–present)|
Map of the Sinai Peninsula.
(For a more detailed map of the current military situation in Sinai, see here.)
|Commanders and leaders|
Abu Osama al-Masri (ISIL Emir of Wilayat Sinai)
Selim Suleiman Al-Haram †
|Total: 25,000 (41 battalions)||
|Casualties and losses|
|500–1000 killed||1,100–2,000+ killed
|Civilian casualties: 500+ Egyptian, 219 Russians, 4 Ukrainians, 1 Belarusian, 6 Israeli, 4 South Korean, 1 Croatian
Yamam: 2 killed
IDF: 1 killed
Total: 2,371–4,735+ killed
|Part of a series on the
The Sinai insurgency is an ongoing conflict in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, between Islamist militants and Egyptian security forces, which has included attacks on civilians. The insurgency began after the start of the Egyptian Crisis, which saw the overthrow of longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian revolution of 2011.
The Sinai insurgency initially consisted of militants, largely composed of local Bedouin tribesmen, who exploited the chaotic situation in Egypt and weakened central authority to launch a series of attacks on government forces in Sinai; in 2014, elements of the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and proclaimed themselves Sinai Province, and a part of ISIL. Security officials say militants based in Libya have established ties with the Sinai Province group and have blamed the porous border and ongoing civil war for the increase in sophisticated weapons available to the Islamist groups.
The Egyptian authorities have attempted to restore their presence in the Sinai through both political and military measures. Egypt launched two military operations, known as Operation Eagle in mid-2011 and then Operation Sinai in mid-2012; in May 2013, following an abduction of Egyptian officers, violence in the Sinai surged once again. Following the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état, which resulted in the ousting of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, "unprecedented clashes" have occurred.
The fallout suffered by the locals as a result of the insurgency in Sinai ranges from militant operations and the state of insecurity to extensive military operations and the demolishing of hundreds of homes and evacuating thousands of residents as Egyptian troops pressed on to build a buffer zone meant to halt the smuggling of weapons and militants from and to the Gaza strip. A report, compiled by a delegation from the state-funded National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), stated that most of the displaced families share the same grievances of palpable government negligence, unavailability of nearby schools for their sons and the lack of health services, since the start of the conflict, dozens of civilians were killed either in military operations or kidnapped and then beheaded by militants. In November 2017, more than 300 Sufist worshippers were killed and over 100 injured in an attack on a mosque west of the city of Al-Arish.
- 1 Background
- 2 Timeline
- 2.1 2011–2012
- 2.2 2013–2014
- 2.3 2015
- 2.4 2016
- 2.5 2017
- 3 Areas of insurgency
- 4 Egyptian response
- 5 Reactions
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
Sufism was previously dominant in the region before militant jihadi ideas began to take hold. The Sinai peninsula has long been known for its lawlessness, having historically served as a smuggling route for weapons and supplies. Security provisions in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty of 1979 have institutionalized a diminished security presence in the area, enabling militants to operate with a freer hand. Moreover, the limited government-directed investment and development in Sinai has discriminated against the local Bedouin population, a population that values tribal allegiance over all else, the combination of Sinai's harsh terrain and lack of resources have kept the area poor and hence ripe for militancy.
Following the January 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime, the country became increasingly destabilized, creating a security vacuum in the Sinai peninsula. Radical Islamic elements in Sinai exploited the opportunity, using the unique environment, in launching several waves of attacks upon Egyptian military and commercial facilities.
According to The Economist, the conflict also involves local armed Bedouin "who have long-standing grievances against the central government in Cairo" and that "they are barred from joining the army or police; they find it hard to get jobs in tourism; and they complain that many of their lands have been taken from them".
Since the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime in Egypt, there has been increasing instability in the Sinai Peninsula; in addition the collapse of the Libyan regime increased the quantity and sophistication of weapons being smuggled into the area. The situation provided local Bedouin with an opportunity to assert their authority, leading to clashes with Egyptian security forces, but the cause of violence soon transitioned to salafi jihadism. Hard-line militant Muslims used Sinai as a launch-point for attacks against Israel and turned on the Egyptian state., focusing on Egypt's security establishment and the Sinai's Arab Gas Pipeline.
In August 2011, Operation Eagle was launched, in an effort to restore law and order, driving Islamist insurgents and criminal gangs out of North Sinai's urban centers, as well as, attempting to sever the link between militant groups in the Sinai and Gaza, by augmenting its control over the Gaza border crossing.
The operation had limited success, and a week into the operation, salafi jihadists carried out the worst cross-border attack on Israel in the post-Mubarak period.
On 5 August 2012, an attack on the Rafah barracks shook the Egyptian military and population. Only a month into his term, President Mohamed Morsi sacked the longstanding defence minister and promoted General al Sisi to take his place. Operation Sinai was launched, aimed at eliminating armed Islamist groups, protecting the Suez Canal, and destroying the tunnel network connecting the Sinai with the Gaza Strip, during the operation, 32 militants and suspects were killed and 38 arrested, while 2 civilians had been killed by early September 2012.
Since the July 2013 coup, against President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, the Egyptian military and security services in particular have been targeted by Sinai-based violent Islamist groups; in an increase in violence security forces came under near daily attack throughout July to August 2013.
In 2013, the new authorities adopted a more aggressive strategy, leading to mass arrests and hard security measures, over the few months leading to 2014, the Egyptian army gained the upper hand in the battle against militias that have found safe haven in the peninsula. After isolating and largely clearing the populated northeastern Sinai, the army put many militant factions on the defensive, most notably Ansar Bait al-Maqdis. However, one thousand armed militiamen are still sheltering in the main stronghold in Jabal Halal, as well as Jabal Amer area.
In November 2014, the situation in the Sinai was thrust into the spotlight with deadliest attack on the security forces since 2011, and the group responsible Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forming the Sinai Province. In the wake of the attack on the security forces, the government declared state of emergency, imposing a curfew and establish a buffer zone in the Sinai's border area with Gaza.
May 2013 hostage crisis
On May 2013, a number of Egyptian Army police officers were taken hostage by armed tribesmen in the Sinai peninsula, with their videos released on the internet begging for their lives, as a response, Egypt’s government had built up security forces in northern Sinai as part of an effort to secure the release of six policemen and a border guard kidnapped by suspected militants. On 20–21 May, Egyptian troops and police, backed by helicopter gunships, conducted a sweep through a number of villages in northern Sinai, along the border with Israel, the officials said the forces came under fire from gunmen in vehicles, triggering the clashes. The clashes left one gunman dead by 21 May, the hostages were released on 22 May after talks between the captors and Bedouins. One suspect in the kidnapping was arrested on 30 May 2013.
July 2013 escalation following Morsi ousting
Since Mohamed Morsi's ouster on 3 July, there has been an increase in violence by armed Bedouin and Islamists. Attacks on security forces have been witnessed almost daily since his ouster — leading many to link the militants there to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails.
In response, Egypt launched a major military operation in Sinai, bringing in two additional battalions.
In the two weeks following 3 July 39 terrorist attacks occurred in North Sinai; in the resulting clashes between armed groups and security forces, 52 gunmen and civilians and six security personnel died. On 15 July, witnessed the highest civilian casualties, when a bus transporting workers to the army-operated Al-Arish Cement Company was attacked. Five were killed and 15 were wounded, on 16 July, attacks resulted in some of the most intense army engagement, concentrated at Al-Masa'id, Al-Joura, and the Central Security camp at Al-Ahrash.
Security operations have been largely confined to the 40-kilometre area between Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, extending northward toward Rafah along the border with Israel and up to the Karam Abu Salem crossing. Fighting intensifies between the gunmen and the joint army-police forces at night, the frequency of attacks has varied from two to five in a single day. In addition, targets have expanded from fixed security checkpoints to mobile patrols; in most operations, the gunmen use four-wheel drive vehicles and combinations of light and heavy weaponry. However, in three recent attacks RPG-7 launchers were used, most likely smuggled from Libya, the G-7 grenade is capable of penetrating armoured vehicles and is generally fired at the doors.
On 27 July, operation dubbed "Desert Storm" was launched by the Egyptian army in North Sinai Governorate and will last for 48 hours. Two of Egypt's field armies, as well as the country's Air Force and Navy are reportedly taking part in this large-scale operation, the military are said to be blocking all the roads, bridges and tunnels leading from Northern Sinai to other provinces of Egypt.
A bomb was placed at a hotel frequented by security officials on 2 August 2013, though it caused no injuries. A security source told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that a majority of "terrorists" had been arrested as of 3 August 2013. 2 mausoleums were bombed on 4 August 2013, though no injuries resulted.
Twenty-five Egyptian policemen died in an attack in the northern region of Sinai, on 18 August, after militants forced two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen to stop, ordered the policemen out and forced them to lie on the ground before shooting them. The Egyptian military arrested eleven people, including five Hamas members, three local residents and three foreign nationals, for their alleged involvement in the killings, the person who committed the murders confessed on 1 September 2013.
Military spokesperson Ahmed Ali said that Egyptian security forces recent operations in Sinai, from 5 July to 23 August, resulted in: 78 suspected militants killed, including 32 foreigners; 116 people injured; and 203 people arrested, including 48 foreigners, for their alleged involvement in attacks on security checkpoints in the peninsula. Additionally 343 tunnels on the border between Egypt and Gaza at Rafah have been destroyed.
On 3 September, fifteen Islamist militants were killed in an attack by military helicopters.
On 7 September, the Egyptian army launched a new operation in the region, the operation involved tanks and at least six Apache helicopters. The army have been jamming communications to thwart militant coordination, the army combed through areas near the Gaza Strip, including locations used by militants suspect in the killing and abduction of Egyptian soldiers over the past year. In the three days of operations, since 7 September, one officer, two soldiers and 29 militants were killed, and 39 militants were arrested.
On 11 September, suicide bomber targeted Egyptian military intelligence headquarters in Rafah, bringing down the structure, at the same time a car bomb had rammed an army checkpoint; in the simultaneous attack at least nine soldiers were killed.
On 24 December 16 were killed and over 134 injured in a huge bomb which hit the Daqahliya Security Directorate in Mansoura, in the worst attack on a government site since the ouster of Morsi in July. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group deemed Egyptian troops infidels because they answer to a "secular government", warning them to desert or face death.
2014 helicopter downing
On 26 January, militants shot down an army Mi-17 helicopter in North Sinai, killing all five of its crew members, the weapon the insurgents used was an infrared-homing, surface-to-air missile from the Russian-made Igla family. This was the first time in Egyptian history that an armed nonstate actor dropped a state's military helicopter by a missile. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for this attack as well as series of escalating attacks on police and soldiers. Earlier that morning masked men in an SUV attacked a bus carrying soldiers in Sinai, killing at least three and injuring at least 11.
On 3 February, in what was described as the biggest operation in the Egyptian army's ongoing offensive against militants in the Sinai, 30 suspected militants were killed and another 15 injured in a series of airstrikes and another 16 were arrested.
2014 Taba bus bombing
On 16 February 2014, a bomb exploded on or under a tour bus of a South Korean church group in the Egyptian city of Taba, which borders the Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat, Israel. The bombing killed 4 people – 3 South Koreans and the Egyptian bus driver – and injured 17 others. According to The New York Times, the bombing could "offer worrying new evidence that militants who have been attacking Egypt's security forces for months were broadening their campaign against civilians."
October 2014 Sinai attacks
On 24 October 2014, 31 army and police soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in North Sinai, the attack was the largest ever since the start of the war on terror in Sinai. As a result of the attack, president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a state of emergency in the governorate after meeting with the National Defence Council for several hours, the state of emergency was to last for three months and to include a daily curfew from 5 pm to 7 am until further notice.
On 10 November 2014, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forming the Sinai Province group with a confusingly similar name to two Egyptian regional governments.
During 2015, the intensity and the scale of insurgent attacks expanded.
On 12 January 2015, Sinai Province kidnapped a police officer while traveling in North Sinai and took him to an unknown location, on the following day on 13 January 2015, Egyptian military spokesperson announced the discovery of the dead body of the officer after launching a search operation. He also said that during the operation 10 militants were killed, while two others were arrested.
On 26 January 2015, Sinai Province published a video online that included the kidnapping and execution of the police officer kidnapped on 12 January.
January 2015 Sinai attacks
On 29 January 2015, militants from the Sinai Province militant group launched a series of attacks on army and police bases in Arish using car bombs and mortars, the attacks, which occurred in more than six different locations, resulted in 32 confirmed deaths including army personnel and civilians.
It was reported that on 6 February 2015 Egyptian security forces attacked the Sinai Province group, killing 47 Islamic militants in Northern Sinai.
On 10 March 2015, a suicide attack on a police barracks using a water tanker was stopped after security forces opened fire on the water tanker causing it to explode before it could get into the barracks. One civilian near the scene was killed and two others wounded in the blast, alongside dozens of wounded policemen.
On 2 April 2015, an attack on an army checkpoint resulted in the death of 15 soldiers, 2 civilians and 15 attackers, as a response to the attack, the Egyptian army launched an operation the following day allegedly killing 100 militants.
On 8 April 2015, eleven civilians were killed in Sheikh Zuweid when an unidentified rocket-propelled grenade hit their homes.
On 12 April 2015, 6 soldiers were killed when their armoured vehicle was bombed in North Sinai, on the same day, a separate attack on a police station in Arish resulted in the death of 5 policemen and 1 civilian. The attack on the station was carried out by a suicide bomber using a bomb-laden vehicle. Militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
On 27 April 2015, members from Al-Tarabin tribe in North Sinai launched an attack on Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis positions in Rafah, the attack came after Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis gunmen fatally shot a member of Al-Tarabin tribe in Berth village in southern Rafah, North Sinai, after he refused to take their warning statements ordering them not to deal with the Egyptian military.
On 16 May 2015, three Egyptian judges and their driver were killed when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in North Sinai, the attack came hours after a Cairo court issued a preliminary death sentence against former president Mohamed Morsi and 105 other defendants on a range of charges, including murder.
On 9 June 2015, militants fired rockets at the direction of an airport in Sinai used by the multinational peacekeeping forces.
July 2015 Sinai attacks
On 1 July 2015, Sinai Province militants launched one of the largest attacks ever, since the insurgency begun in 2011, on multiple Egyptian army checkpoints in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 21 soldiers, the attack also targeted Sheikh Zuweid police station. Reinforcements from the Second Army Zone stationed in Ismailia have been deployed to Sheikh Zuweid, and F-16 fighter jets were spotted targeting militants in the city. Militants have reportedly killed several civilians who refused to allow them onto their rooftops to target security forces. An army statement claimed the killing of more than 100 militants from the attacking force, the militant death toll increased in the following days, due to Egyptian military operations in the region, reaching 241 killed.
On 4 July 2015, a shell bomb struck a house in Sheikh Zuweid, killing a woman and her two children, on the same day, a roadside bomb targeting army and police vehicles killed a five-year-old child in Rafah.
On 15 July 2015, twenty militants were killed as security forces repelled an attack on a security checkpoint in North Sinai.
On 16 July 2015, Sinai Province militants attacked an Egyptian navy patrol ship near the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, the patrol ship was hit by a guided missile. The Egyptian military confirmed the incident and said in a statement that there are no fatalities among the vessel’s crew, the attack is considered the first maritime attack of the Islamic State and its allied militant groups.
On 23 July 2015, an officer and three soldiers were killed and three others were wounded when an improvised roadside bomb hit their armoured vehicle in a village near the town of Rafah.
On 24 July 2015, the Egyptian army said it has killed 12 terrorists and destroyed two warehouses storing explosive materials.
On 31 July 2015, the Egyptian military bombed areas of the North Sinai towns of al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, killing 20 suspected militants.
On 1 August 2015, Egyptian army forces surrounded the home of a leading figure of the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, in the town of Sheikh Zuweid, before shooting him dead.
Operation Martyr's Right
On 8 September 2015, the Egyptian military launched a major operation code-named "The Martyr's Right", the operation is the largest and most comprehensive operation aimed at rooting out and killing terrorists since July's immediate response to militant attacks. The operation targeted sites in Rafah, Arish, and Sheikh Zuweid, all towns in the northern areas of the peninsula. 535 militants were killed in September 2015.
On 13 September 2015, a Fijian soldier attached to the Multinational Force and Observers was wounded by small arms fire.
Downing of Russian passenger plane
On 31 October 2015, a Russian passenger jet disintegrated above the northern Sinai, killing all 224 aboard, the Islamic State's Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the incident. Russian, Egyptian, and western investigators concluded that the plane was brought down by a bomb.
Insurgent attacks increased in early 2016, nearly doubling between the last quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016. However, according to The Times of Israel, the numbers of attacks and casualties was declining by August 2016.
In May, Egyptian security forces launched an air attack on Jabal Halal, a region with an extensive cave system that was a major insurgent stronghold. According to the Egyptian military, 88 militants were killed and many supply caches were destroyed.
On 28 June, A series of air strikes killed 30 ISIS fighters and injured 50 others.
Then, on 4 August, the army claimed to have killed the leader of Sinai Province, Abu Duaa al-Ansari. Independent sources were unable to verify this claim, or even the existence of al-Ansari. Previous reports had described Abu Osama al-Masri as the leader.
The army reported another 40 militants killed by airstrikes in September.
On 14 October a total 12 soldiers and 15 militants were killed, on 17 October several clashes in North Sinai left 3 soldiers and 18 insurgents dead. On 30 October a military operation in North Sinai left 4 soldiers and 6 insurgents dead.
On 9 January 2017, an attack by several gunmen and a truck bomb on a police checkpoint in El-Arish causing at least 13 deaths and 22 injuries, according to official sources. One of the attackers, drove a stolen rubbish truck loaded with explosive at the security checkpoint, as gunmen opened fire on police forces.
Palm Sunday church bombings
On February 2017, ISIS produced a video calling for attacks against Christians. On April ISIS attacked several churches in Egypt Known as Palm Sunday church bombings, the attacks killed over 40 people.
In July, a militant raid on an army checkpoint resulted in the deaths of at least 23 soldiers, the checkpoint was looted for weapons and ammunition before the attackers fled the scene. Later that month an attack targeting police killed 5 officers and wounded 11 in the city of el-Arish. A later roadside bomb south of the city wounded a further 6 officers, the attacks came the same day officials claimed the Egyptian Air Force had killed at least 30 militants in strikes on a gathering.
In September officers were again attacked in el-Arish, with 18 killed and 7 wounded in an assault involving roadside bombs and small arms fire.
On November 24, 2017, the Sufi al-Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed, North Sinai Governorate, Egypt was attacked by around forty gunmen during Friday prayers. The gun and bomb attack killed at least 235 people and injured more than 120, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egyptian history and the second deadliest attack in 2017, after the 14 October 2017 Mogadishu bombings. Other reports of the attack assert that over 300 deaths occurred.
On December 19, 2017 El Arish International Airport was attacked in an attempt to assassinate the Minister of Interior Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar and the minister of defense Sedki Sobhy, the assassination attempt failed and one officer was killed and two were injured. ISIS used kornet anti-tank missile in the attack. Next day a new clash started near the airport where 5 ISIS militants were killed and an army captain was killed.
Areas of insurgency
According to Reuters, as of 2013, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis was in control of about a third of the villages in Sinai. Now, daily clashes with militants in North Sinai are reported by the army, the insurgency has not spread to south Sinai, where there are tourist hubs. In the northeastern part of the peninsula, checkpoints have often been established by militants as the army lack the power to stop them, the militants have captured and assassinated policemen there.
Outside of Sinai
On 24 December 2013, sixteen people were killed and over a hundred people injured in a huge bomb which hit the Daqahliya Security Directorate in Mansoura. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 5 August 2014, 5 policemen were killed in an attack on a police car on Matrouh road by armed militants.
On 1 December 2014, Sinai Province claimed responsibility for killing a United States citizen in Egypt's western desert in August 2014.
On 26 December 2014, two Ansar Bait al-Maqdis militants were killed in a gunfight in El-Salam City, on the eastern outskirts of Cairo, the Ministry of Interior later identified one of the dead militants as the commander of Ansar Beit El-Maqdis in the Nile Delta.
On 11 July 2015, a car-bomb exploded near the Italian consulate in Cairo, killing one person and injuring nine others. None of the Italian staff of the consulate were injured as the establishment was still closed at the time of the explosion. Later, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the Gaza Strip
Out of the approximately 15 main militant groups operating in the Sinai desert, the most dominant and active militant groups have close relations with the Gaza Strip, the Army of Islam, a U.S. designated terrorist organization based in the Gaza Strip, is responsible for training and supplying many militant organizations and jihadist members in Sinai. Mohammed Dormosh, the Army of Islam's leader, is known for his close relationships to the Hamas leadership, the Army of Islam smuggles members into the Gaza Strip for training, then returns them to the Sinai Peninsula to engage in terrorist and jihadist activities.
The disposition of Egyptian forces in the Sinai peninsula is mandated by the Camp David Accords and monitored by the 1,600 foreign troops that make up the Multinational Force and Observers. Egypt is permitted only enough military forces in the Sinai to enforce security.
In 2011, Egypt sent an additional 2,500 troops and 250 armored personnel, with helicopters as part of Operation Eagle, a mission to provide security during the power transition from then-recently fallen Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Operation Eagle was joined by Operation Sinai in 2012, which came in response to a militant attack against an Egyptian border post 5 August that killed 16 border guards. Together, the two operations increased the total troop count by more than 2,500 added 80 vehicles and at least two attack helicopters. Egypt also was allowed to deploy armed fighter jets to El Arish to assist its ground forces in Sinai.
Egypt's expanded force structure in Sinai is designed to deny militants sanctuary by bringing more force to bear than the municipal police alone can provide. Many of the new forces are stationed in the northeast of Sinai along the Egyptian border with Gaza. Setting up roadblocks and checkpoints to monitor and inspect traffic transiting the Sinai Peninsula to counter this smuggling.
In the October 2014 attacks, for the first time the militants in Sinai used suicide truck bombs to breach army roadblocks and strongpoints, then followed them with an infantry attack.
After the October attacks, the Egyptian military began using armed drones for the first time since the Sinai insurgency began. And as a measure to counter weapon and militant trafficking between Egypt and Gaza strip, the Egyptian government announced the creation of a buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border.
Following the attacks on army and police bases in Arish in early 2015, the Egyptian President issued a decree to create a unified military command for the east of the Suez Canal to combat terrorism. Led by General Osama Roshdy Askar, it will guide counter-terrorism activities of the Second and Third army.
On 27 April 2015, Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued a decree ordering the isolation and evacuation of new areas in North Sinai's Rafah city, thus expanding the buffer zone.
A shift in the militants strategy appeared in the July 2015 clashes. Zack Gold, Middle East analyst, views the battle as a change in strategy from hit and run tactics toward an ISIL-like 'holding' of territory.
As an effort to limit car-bombs attacks, Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued a decree banning 4X4 vehicles in army-operations zones in Sinai.
The Egyptian government has used the death penalty to punish those convicted of committing terrorist acts in Sinai, on 26 December 2017, Egypt hanged 15 men convicted of killing nine soldiers during an attack on a military checkpoint in 2013.
In the two years since 2011, Israel has approved two Egyptian military increases in the Sinai Peninsula above levels set in the Camp David Accords, which mandates that the Sinai must remain demilitarized, with only enough forces in Sinai to enforce security. Israel did so because it is not in its interest to have unrest in Sinai, whether political protests or militant violence.
However, in late 2012, concern began to be raised as Egypt began deploying more force and tanks without coordination from Israel, on 21 August, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that it is important for Israel to make sure that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is upheld, and not to remain silent as Egyptian military forces enter the Sinai. Concern was raised by Israeli officials over Egyptian failure to notify Israel about the deployment of tanks in the Sinai, which violates the peace treaty. Lieberman said, "We must make sure that every detail is upheld, otherwise we'll find ourselves in a slippery slope as far as the peace treaty is concerned."
On the same day, Israeli daily Maariv reported that Israel sent a message to Egypt via the White House, protesting Egypt's ongoing increase in military presence in the Sinai without coordination from Israel, and telling Egypt that it must remove tanks from the Sinai because their presence violates the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979, which states that Sinai Peninsula is to remain demilitarized. The Maariv report was echoed by an article in The New York Times, which stated that Israel was "troubled" by the entry of Egyptian tanks into the northern Sinai Peninsula without coordination with Israel and had asked Egypt to withdraw them. Partly due to Egypt's military deploying tanks in the Sinai Peninsula, Israel is increasingly worried about what has long been their most critical regional relationship, the lack of coordination around their deployment is seen as potentially undermining a peace treaty that has been a cornerstone of Israel’s security for decades according to the New York Times. Israel is also concerned that Egypt may use Operation Eagle to build up its military presence in the Sinai, and leave the tanks and armored carriers in the Sinai while not doing much more than symbolic action to eliminate the terrorist threat.
Israel has not issued a formal complaint, and instead prefers to resolve the issue through quiet contacts, as well as mediation from the U.S., to avoid straining its relationship with Egypt.
On 24 August 2012, a senior Egyptian military source said that Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reached an agreement on the issue of the militarization of the Sinai. Al Hayat reported that Sissi phoned Barak and said that Egypt was committed to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel. Sissi also said that the militarization was temporary, and was needed for security and to fight terrorism. However, an Israeli defense official denied that such a conversation took place.
In late August 2012, Morsi said that the security operations do not threaten anyone, and "there should not be any kind of international or regional concerns at all from the presence of Egyptian security forces". Morsi added that the campaign was in "full respect to international treaties, the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal places limits on Egyptian military deployment in the Sinai. Officials in Israel were concerned about Egypt building up heavy armour in Sinai.
On 8 September 2012, an Israeli official confirmed that coordination exists between Israel and Egypt regarding Operation Eagle. Egyptian Military spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali had earlier announced that Egypt has been consulting with Israel regarding its security measures in the Sinai.
On 2 July 2015, one day after the attacks on 15 Egyptian Army checkpoints, Israel announced that it was giving Egypt a "free hand to operate in northern Sinai against local jihadist groups, voluntarily ignoring an annex to the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords banning the presence of significant Egyptian forces in the area."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to Egypt for the terrorist attacks that rocked that country on 1 July, he further stated that "we are together with Egypt and many other states in the Middle East and the world in the struggle against extreme Islamic terrorism."
According to CNN, in a move to increase security in the Sinai, help Morsi, and reassure Israel, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered Egypt classified intelligence-sharing capabilities to help Egypt identify military threats in the area, which he discussed during his recent trips to Egypt and Israel, the technology has been widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify vehicles at great distances. The technology may also be used by the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, the United States is also offering increased intelligence sharing, including satellite imagery and drone flights, as well as cellphone intercepts and other communications among militants suspected of plotting attacks.
On 22 August 2012, the State Department urged Egypt to be transparent over Operation Eagle and any security operations in the Sinai, the State Department said that the United States supports Operation Eagle against terrorism, but stressed that Egypt must continue coordination with Israel regarding these operations and military increases in the Sinai, according to the 1979 Camp David Accords. The State Department also called on Egypt to fulfill its obligations under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and deal strongly with security threats in the Sinai, while ensuring that "lines of communication stay open."
On 23 August 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, urged Amr to maintain lines of communication with Israel, and emphasized the importance of being transparent over the militarization of the Sinai.
Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai
The Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, a 1,650-strong international organization created in 1979 during the Camp David Accords with peacekeeping responsibilities, kept a low profile during the intensification of Operation Eagle in 2012. A representative for the organization said that "we are unable to respond to queries from the media at this time" in response to whether Egypt asked permission to move weaponry into the Sinai, and whether Israel granted it.
The Egyptian pipeline carrying natural gas to Jordan has been attacked at least 15 times since the start of the uprising in early 2011, the lack of Egyptian gas hit Jordan budget severely (by JD 1.4 billion or the equivalent of USD 2 billion yearly for the past two years) and they are looking for Egypt to compensate for the lost quantities.
A Mada Masr journalist questioned the accuracy of Interior Ministry reports on at least two accusations. CBS journalist Clarissa Ward went undercover into the Sinai and witnessed evidence of a scorched earth policy.
- Arab Spring
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- Timeline of the Sinai insurgency
- List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
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