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Sinai, the fireproof powder keg of Egypt

With his scorched-earth policy, Al-Sisi's regime has been unable to stifle a tenacious insurgency led by ISIS

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Sinai, the fireproof powder keg of Egypt

Although peninsula is a vast territory of 58,000 square kilometers (something superior to Costa Rica), desert and mountainous, area that concentrates most of attacks is much smaller, just about 100 kilometers long, located around Gaza. In this region, attacks on security forces are common and, since 2013, y have resulted in deaths of hundreds of ir members. Because of conflict, dozens of civilians have also died, eir at hands of army or terrorist groups. The capital, Al Arish, and or neighboring towns, such as Sheikh Zuweid, have been living for years under curfew, often involving cuts in telephone lines and Internet supply. I mean, a real war zone.

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For this reason, or with this excuse, access to territory is forbidden to press by State, and especially to international. This situation, coupled with climate of reigning terror, makes it difficult to verify what really happens on ground. The media is usually limited to reproducing official communiqués with balance of dead of attacks and anti-terrorist operations. However, most of reporting and reporting of independent think tanks point to existence of a population distressed and caught between violence exerted by both sides.

The Sinai, whose original inhabitants are mostly Bedouin, has suffered a long history of marginalization by state. This is due to dominant centralism in administration, to contempt for Bedouin way of life and culture, as well as to mistrust of government towards a population that accepted without a great resistance to live under Israel's control for more than a decade. With this broth of cultivation, several armed smalls flourished Salafi during last years of Mubarak regime that directed ir part of ir attacks against Israeli interests. After 2011 revolution, oil pipeline that crudely exported to Israel was sabotaged more than a dozen times.

The coup d'etat executed by Al Sisi burned Sinai, transforming small of young Bedouins into a true insurgency thanks to arrival of experienced jihadi combatants. From union of several of se organizations was born Ansaar Bait al-Maqdis, who in 2014 swore allegiance to ISIS and became Wilaya Sina. Formed by a thousand militants, according to estimates of think tank TIMEP, has been able to renew itself after each raid or hit by army. In a tribal society, re is never a shortage of grievances to avenge tortures or murders of family members at hands of army.

Although insurgency cannot occupy any fringe of territory for a sustained period of time, it is able to mount roadblocks and even take on villages and neighborhoods for hours, frightening civilian population. In addition, it has repeatedly organized sophisticated ambushes that cause a large number of casualties among security forces. To date, his deadliest attack was against a Russian civil aircraft at end of 2015 that cut lives of more than 200 tourists of this nationality. However, never before this Friday he had led an attack of this magnitude against civilian population of Sinai.


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