Egypt’s Islamic Jihad Urges Restraint by Sinai Salafists

Article Summary
Leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad reportedly urged Salafist groups in the Sinai not to attack Israeli targets to give President Morsi time to resolve the conflict, Ahmad Rahim reports.

Al-Hayat learned that contacts were made between leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and armed groups in the Sinai — namely the Salafist Jihadists, Gamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Ahl al-Sunnah wa Gama'ah — to prevent them from targeting Israel at this stage.

Sources informed about the contacts told Al-Hayat that influential members of jihadist groups in the Sinai were planning to target Israel by firing rockets at Israeli towns, in order to relieve some of the pressure on the Gaza Strip and to support the Palestinian resistance.

Within security circles, concerns were raised after these groups became determined to target Israel. The circles estimated that if the situation continues, it will lead to an Israeli response and involve Egypt in the armed conflict that is taking place in Gaza. The sources clarified that “official parties called on leaders of historical jihadist groups to interfere to prevent the armed groups in the Sinai from targeting Israel, given the potential dangerous implications.”

Magdy Salem, leader of Tala'e al-Fateh, confirmed to Al-Hayat that these contacts were made.

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However, he stressed that “these contacts were not based on the desires of official parties. However, leaders of jihadist groups acted in this regard, given that they feel responsible and they realize the seriousness of the situation at this stage.”

Salem added, “We made contacts with leaders of the main jihadist groups in the Sinai and talked about the seriousness of the situation if Israel is targeted during the conflict in Gaza. They totally understood the situation and pledged not to fire any rockets from the Sinai into Israel.”

He continued, “We know the jihadists leaders in the Sinai from our time in detention under the Mubarak regime and they trust us, particularly given that we called them after the soldiers were killed in Rafah. We didn’t have to make tremendous efforts to convince them not to target Israel. They totally understand the situation and its ramifications.”

Salem was keen to emphasize that they did not act as official mediators between the state and these groups. Rather, they felt that “the presidential steps were designed to support the people of Gaza. We notified these groups that the response to Israel should follow state policy, as long as the state is taking respectable steps.”

As for the Israeli allegations that rockets and rocket-propelled grenades were being fired from the Sinai, Salem said, “We contacted the main jihadist groups in the Sinai. There were certainly some actions taken by individuals here or there, but in the end, leaders of influential groups vowed to bring the situation under control. I believe that Israel resorts to such lies in order to exert pressure on the Egyptian regime to rapidly act to ease the situation and avoid being involved in the conflict.”

In the past two days, Israel has intensified its air strikes on the border town of Rafah between Egypt and Palestine. Local authorities in Rafah vacated the schools located near the border area after their windows were broken. Witnesses said that explosions — which resulted from Israeli targeting of border tunnels — were clearly heard and that smoke and the smell of gunpowder and bombs has filled the air on the Egyptian side of Rafah. 

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