Sinai is slowly falling away from Egyptian influence as ISIS control pose a new & serious existential threat to both Egypt & Israel.
The Islamic State (ISIS) has announced that the Sinai Peninsula is now a caliphate, an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph – i.e. “successor” – to Mohammed.
Reports around the Arab world are claiming that the establishment of a caliphate in the Sinai is the first step towards its “advance on Jerusalem.”
Egypt’s most active and notorious terror group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has sworn allegiance to ISIS in Sinai. “After trusting in Allah, we have decided to swear allegiance to the Emir (leader) of the faithful, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (leader of ISIS), Caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries,” the group said in a statement cited by Reuters.
ISIS has in turn called on the Egyptian jihadists to “destroy police checkpoints, fire RPG rockets at their rallying points and to show the world that Allah’s rule must be enforced.”
This under-reported jihadist insurgency has been brewing in the north-eastern corner of the Sinai bordering the Gaza Strip for several years. ISIS is now taking full advantage of the turmoil, which began brewing when Israel left Sinai in 1980, but escalated dramatically in July 2013 following the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government in Cairo.
Despite denials by Egyptian officials, some sources say that as many as 5,000 Islamic militants have already infiltrated into the Sinai Peninsula. At the same time, Egyptian security sources estimate that up to 8,000 Egyptians are fighting abroad with militant groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Last month, when Sinai terrorists blew up 30 Egyptian soldiers along the Gaza border, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated a military operation targeting the jihadists. The crackdown has left at least 1,400 people dead and more than 15,000 jailed, according to Al Arabiya News.
The Egyptian government has also imposed a curfew and created a five-kilometer buffer zone along the Gaza-Egypt border, in the process evicting more than 600 families and demolishing hundreds of homes, which one official claimed lied on top of a series of tunnels that ran along the border with the Palestinian enclave.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed in August that it had beheaded four Egyptians for providing Israel with intelligence leading to an air strike that killed three of its fighters. It posted footage of the killings on Twitter. Last month, Sinai residents said they had found a beheaded corpse bearing a note signed by the group, accusing the victim of being an Israeli spy.
When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was removed from office and the Muslim Brotherhood took over, security concerns prompted the Israelis to began building a security fence along the Sinai border. Separate from the fence that runs along the West Bank and which has successfully stopped infiltrations by suicide bombers, the new 233-kilometer security fence along the Sinai border, which was only recently completed, is sixteen feet high and includes barbed wire, surveillance cameras and radar.
View original Israel Today publication at: http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/25500/Default.aspx