Toxic Mix in Egypt's Sinai Region Set the Stage for Recent Tragedy

Article Summary
Citing a toxic mixture of an Egyptian security vacuum, desperate Bedouin living conditions and a Hamas government content to allow smuggling across the border, Abdel Majid Suweilim argues that Sunday’s attack on Egyptian military recruits was only a matter of time.

The organization or organizations that executed this terrible massacre (the attack on Egyptian army personnel in north Sinai) wanted to kill two birds with one stone. They have most probably met or exceeded their objectives.

The attack was primarily aimed at abolishing any relationship between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, embarrassing the Hamas Movement and preventing it from investing in Egyptian development projects.

These evil forces wanted to trigger strife among both Palestinians and Egyptians and foment resentment against Egypt’s leadership, which had been working to ease the suffering of the residents of the Gaza Strip. This would prevent the Egyptian leadership from banking on stability in the Sinai and worsen the relationship between the Egyptian state and Bedouin groups in the peninsula.

The attack may also have sought to destabilize Hamas, since the movement left the “resistance” arena and is rapidly starting to treat the Gaza Strip (liberated or besieged) as an entity that should be affiliated only with those who guarantee Hamas’ control over Gaza.

A stable Egyptian-Palestinian border is the biggest threat to these radical terrorist forces. They are completely convinced that if stability prevails on the border, Hamas would eliminate any threat to this stability, just as it did by killing many members of these groups in a well-known incident inside a mosque. These terrorist forces tried to turn the Gaza Strip into an area of chaos and radicalism by destroying its national identity and transforming it into groups that are divided according to their degree of religiosity and extremism. They are achieving this by building overlapping networks focused on smuggling and trafficking of drugs and weapons, in addition to maintaining the underground economy. 

These groups are hoping to drag the Palestinian community into conflict and skirmishes, and they consider this community fertile soil for their evil activities.

The forces that could benefit from such attacks are numerous. First and foremost: Israel, Iran and Syria, besides other sleeper cells including some branches of Hamas.

The road was perfectly paved for this kind of activity, which is conducted by organizations that use religious radicalism and national one-upmanship as a safe way to exist and grow. This activity came as the result of three main factors: firstly, existing divisions and their consequences of alienating the people from the administration of the strip; secondly, the goal of controlling the strip became the "supreme" objective; and thirdly, the great split that found its way through the national and social fabric.

This is how trafficking and smuggling of weapons became a national “occupation” and “profession.” This is how these smuggling and trafficking networks benefited from the open support of the people, along with support from various Hamas-affiliated security groups. It is therefore easy to use this support, alongside the forces that accompanied it, within a framework of local, regional or even international plans. It is also easy to choose the appropriate political moment to mobilize these forces and use them for previously planned purposes.

The general environment and conditions in the Sinai are also favorable for smuggling and lawlessness. There is no firm Egyptian control over the Sinai because of restrictions imposed on security forces in accordance with the Camp David Accords. The Sinai Bedouins still lack sufficient attention at an official level. They are treated as fourth and fifth-class citizens, and are prohibited from serving in the army and police forces and prevented from working in official institutions. Until now, there have been no serious development plans to pull them out of destitution and improve their miserable living conditions. These conditions force the Bedouins to consider all available options.

On the other hand, Hamas has dealt with the Bedouins as groups that smuggle goods and weapons. Integrated networks for smuggling and carrying out terrorist activities were set up among their ranks, benefiting contracting companies (affiliated with the resistance) in the Gaza Strip. Extremist organizations have gained control over these networks, and now have fare more influence that that enjoyed by Hamas.

There is absolutely no use in attempting to evade responsibility, or hurl accusations against Israel, Iran or others. The [attack against soldiers] was being monitored at the intelligence level. Israel was aware of the operation, although not necessarily in detail. Palestinian security agencies were also aware of some of the details. It is also certain that these Palestinian agencies informed Egypt of the operation. The problem does not lie here. Although the operation had been exposed at the intelligence level, it was still executed, and in such a barbaric manner. It was also a very tragic attack, as the Egyptian military recruits were killed in cold blood.

The killing of the Egyptian recruits during the Ramadan iftar meal is a shocking, shameful and heartbreaking act, and very painful one.

The great Egyptian people — in spite of their justified reactions and severe anxiety — are asked to contain their feelings and consider all dimensions of this treacherous operation. The Egyptian people must know that the feelings of disapproval, condemnation and disgust that prevailed in Palestine from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, and across the world, are the real feelings of the Palestinian people. As for the evil murderers, they are no more than a group of cowardly miscreants, who have turned the blood of Egyptians into a commodity in the contraband market on Egypt’s border with Palestine.

Found in: smuggling, sinai, security, ramadan, palestine, israel, iran, hamas, egypt, bedouin, attack, army

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