Egypt’s War in the Sinai Peninsula: A Struggle that Goes beyond Egypt

By Yoram Schweitzer for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Feb 3:

Egypt is in the midst of a war that can be categorized as a low-intensity conflict. This category represents a common pattern of military campaigns in the early twenty-first century: sub-conventional wars fought by armies and security services belonging to states against armies of terrorilla- fully armed and hierarchical organizations that operate among civilian populations, combining guerilla and terror warfare tactics with the logic of terrorism. The civilians provide shelter and aid, whether under duress or in solidarity, and they always suffer the bitter consequences of the conflict.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi AFP PHOTOThe Jan. 29, 2015, attacks in northern Sinai by some 60 armed men killed 32 people. The attacks included rockets and mortar fire and at least three suicide bombings. There were concurrent attacks in Port Said and Alexandria. The offensive was carried out by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which in November 2014 pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).

IS support for the group through funding and provision of weapons and personnel gives Egypt’s campaign in Sinai great importance. The success of the Sisi government in providing an effective response to the offensive by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis will also affect the ability of other countries to contend with Salafist jihadi elements. Such success will also serve to hinder the impression of an unstoppable, threatening force created by IS conquests.

Egypt’s campaign in Sinai has tremendous significance for Israel since Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has carried out attacks against Israel in the past and has declared that it will continue to operate directly against Israel. Therefore, any intelligence, operational, or political assistance that Israel can provide to the el-Sisi regime will serve Israel’s security interests.

The writer served as a consultant on counter-terror strategies to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Defense, and as head of the Counter International Terror Section in the IDF. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

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