The Sinai War Escalates: Foreign Policy Op-ed by Zack Gold (F09)

Foreign Policy

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has been associated with lawlessness and terrorism since the 2011 uprising. Most attacks in -- and emanating from -- Sinai had three specific targets: Israel, Egyptian-Israeli relations, and Egyptian security forces. Following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Sinai-based jihadi groups have continuously escalated their attacks: first using car-bombs in Sinai, then spreading their attacks outside the peninsula, then using advanced weaponry against the Egyptian military. A further escalation last weekend could mark a new target, which should worry both Egypt and the international community.

On February 16, a man boarded a bus carrying South Korean tourists in Taba, Sinai, and set off a bomb on his person. The bus had stopped approximately 270 yards from the Egyptian-Israeli border, where the Koreans were to cross and continue their international tour. Tourism, a key economic sector in Egypt, has dropped off significantly during Egypt's recent political turmoil. In the past three years, Sinai Bedouin have kidnapped tourists to gain Cairo's attention and hotels in Cairo have been attacked by thugs; however, this was the first terrorist attack targeting foreign tourists.

Sinai's most lethal and effective jihadi group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) has claimed responsibility for the attack. The group emerged in Sinai in 2011, taking advantage of the vacuum left by the dissolution of Egypt's security state to disrupt the flow of a gas pipeline to Israel and occasionally launching cross-border attacks with fighters, snipers, and rockets. Beginning in summer 2012, when the Egyptian military launched a serious effort to uproot the jihadi threat in Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and likeminded groups turned their weapons almost exclusively on the military and police.

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