Mursi orders Egyptian army to get control of Sinai

August 6, 2012
Sarah Benton

This posting has 5 items:
1) Bloomberg Egypt To Take Control Of Sinai;
2) Ma’an news Analysts say Sinai attack attempt to strain Egypt-Gaza relations;
3) Al Jazeera Egypt vows strong response to Sinai attack;
4) Saed Bannoura Egyptians killed, jihadists and Israel kill;
5) JTA Barak calls it a  ‘wake-up call’ for Egypt

Egypt To Take Control Of Sinai After 16 Soldiers Killed
By Tarek El-Tablawy and Ahmed El-Sayed, Bloomberg
August 6, 2012

Egypt deployed helicopter gunships and an anti-terror team in north Sinai as President Mohamed Mursi ordered the military to take “complete control” of the region after unidentified militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.

Mursi, drawn from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, described yesterday’s attack on the troops as they broke their Ramadan fast as a “cowardly” act and vowed the assailants would “pay a high price, as would those who cooperate with them,” the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi condemned the “cowardly” attack, according to MENA. Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The attack on the border post near the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip comes a month after Mursi was sworn in as Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president. Security nationwide has deteriorated since Hosni Mubarak’s 2011 ouster, while Sinai has seen an increase in kidnappings of tourists and attacks on security forces that have alternately been blamed on al-Qaeda-affiliated militants and Bedouins.

Sinai has “become a kind of lawless no-man’s land, and it seems to be getting worse,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha Center, said by phone. It’s also “probably the one area where Egypt and Israel share some common ground. The Muslim Brotherhood and Israel have an interest in stabilizing the Sinai.”

Gunships Patrolling
Security forces and troops were moving into the region hours after Mursi ordered them to hunt down the attackers. Several gunships were sent in to patrol the area, Mohamed Saeed, head of criminal investigation in north Sinai, said by phone, to prevent other attackers from moving into the territory.

“The group that carried out yesterday’s attack, and those standing behind them, are regarded by the armed forces as enemies and must be met with force,” Egypt’s military council said in a statement read on state television. It said 35 people carried out the attack.

At Cairo International Airport, authorities turned away Palestinians arriving by airplane because the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip had been closed, the state-run Ahram Gate reported, citing security officials.

The military said seven other soldiers were injured, including three critically, in the attack. The assailants seized two vehicles and tried to smash through the Israel frontier gate before they were stopped by aircraft and Israeli gunfire, officials said. At least seven militants were killed after crossing the border, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said.

‘Wakeup Call’
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an e-mailed statement by his ministry that the attackers had suicide-bomber vests and that, along with the amount of explosives brought in a small truck at the start of the incursion, “could have caused very serious damage.”

“I appreciate that this will not be the last time we come across attempts to harm us,” he said while touring the border region. “I hope this will be a wakeup call for Egypt regarding the necessity to be sharp and efficient on their side.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said “we need to understand this war is continuing daily and it is clear today also to Egypt that it is an interest of Egypt to stop this.”

Liberman said a barrage of rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip fell on southern Israel around the time of yesterday’s attacks. While he didn’t connect the two, he repeated his position that “there must be an end to the terrorist regime in Gaza. Everyone knows what needs to be done and decisions need to be made.”

Stable Sinai
Mursi’s election raised concerns in Israel, which enjoyed peace with Egypt under Mubarak. The ousted president was seen as the Israel’s greatest ally in the region, cooperating on security and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Mursi and the Brotherhood have repeatedly said Egypt will honor its international agreements — a reference to the Camp David peace accords.

“In theory, Israel and Egypt share an interest in stabilizing the Sinai,” Hamid said. “In practice, it looks very different.”

Mursi must deal with a neighboring government that views the Brotherhood with suspicion and secure a largely desolate peninsula whose southern half and coast are tourist attractions. Last August, gunmen operating out of Sinai attacked near the southern Israeli city of Eilat, killing eight Israelis and injuring about 40 people. A natural gas pipeline feeding into Israel and Jordan has been attacked 15 times since Mubarak’s fall.

‘Huge Challenge’
“What is really needed now is close cooperation between the Egyptian and Israeli militaries, but I’m skeptical that will happen given the political atmosphere in Cairo,” Zvi Mazel, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt from 1996 to 2001, said by phone.
Mursi has been locked in a power struggle with the generals who ruled Egypt after Mubarak’s ouster. The military council handed power to Mursi in June after stripping his office of some of its authority while assuming new powers for itself.
“It’s a huge challenge for Mursi,” said Khalil al-Anani, political analyst at the U.K.’s Durham University. Mursi is still engaged in a political tug-of-war with Egypt’s military council and “such an attack will put him in a bad situation if he asks for more powers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at

Analysts say Sinai attack attempt to strain Egypt-Gaza relations
Ma’an news
August 06, 2012

GAZA CITY — The attack on a Sinai police station that killed 16 Egyptian officers on Sunday was an attempt to strain relations between Egypt and Gaza, political analysts said Monday.

“What happened in Egypt was a crime and organized terror meant to drive a wedge in Palestinian-Egyptian relations. It is possible that external hands are interfering with Egypt after Muhammad Mursi became president,” Gaza-based analyst Mustafa al-Sawwaf told Ma’an.

Palestinians have no interest in attacking Egyptian forces, but Israel has been unsettled by the improvement in relations between Gaza rulers Hamas and Egypt’s recently elected Muslim Brotherhood president, al-Sawwaf said.

Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown by a citizen revolt in Jan. 2011, had played a key role in maintaining Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip, but Mursi has pledged measures to ease the blockade and held several high-level meetings with Hamas.

Al-Sawwaf said some parties within Egypt and at an international level were uncomfortable with Hamas’ friendly relations with Mursi. Hamas has condemned the Sinai attack and vowed not to let anyone threaten Egypt’s security.

Faysal Abu Shalha, a Fatah MP in Gaza, said he hoped Mursi would still implement his pledges to aid Palestinians in the besieged enclave.

But Akram Atallah, a political analyst based in Bethlehem, said he feared residents of Gaza could pay a heavy price for the deaths of the Egyptian officers, particularly if militants in Gaza were involved in the attack.

Mursi had promised to extend the opening hours of the Rafah crossing but Egyptian security officials said the Egypt-Gaza border was indefinitely closed in the wake of the attack.

Attallah told Ma’an he suspected Israel was involved in the attack. He said Israel knew about the raid and noted that it had advised its citizens to leave Sinai days earlier.

He added that Israeli forces assassinated a man in Gaza earlier on Sunday claiming that he was involved in a plot “to execute a terror attack against Israeli civilians via the Israel-Egypt border.”

Hamza Abu Shanab, a Gaza-based analyst, said the Sinai attack was an opportunity for Mursi to cancel Egypt’s 1979 peace agreement with Israel.

The Camp David agreement limits the number of soldiers Egypt can deploy to Sinai, Abu Shanab noted, and so Mursi must ask Israel’s permission to enlarge its force in the peninsula.

An Israeli refusal would be embarrassing as Tel Aviv has called on Cairo to tighten its grip on Sinai, Abu Shanab added.

Egypt vows strong response to Sinai attack

President pledges to retake control of Sinai after 16 Egyptian guards killed in armed attack near the Israeli border.

Al Jazeera
August 06, 2012

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has vowed that he will retake control of the Sinai after an attack near the Israeli border left at least 16 Egyptian guards dead.

The Israeli military says that five of the attackers, who attempted to enter Israel through the crossing during the raid, were killed.

“I have given clear orders to all of our security forces, the armed forces as well as the interior police, to move swiftly in capturing those behind this vicious attack,” Morsi said in a television address early on Monday.

“This incident will not go lightly. The security forces will implement entire control over all of these areas within Sinai and will ensure they are controlling it. Those behind the attacks will pay a high price as well as those who have been co-operating with those attackers, be it those inside or anywhere in Egypt.”

Sunday’s assault at Karem Abu Salem crossing in north Sinai – on the border between Egypt and Israel – took place as gunmen reportedly tried to smash their way across the border into Israel.

The Israeli military said the attack was part of a plot to abduct an Israeli soldier, and two vehicles commandeered by the attackers crashed into Israel, where one blew up.

Egyptian state television said that armed foreign fighters were behind the attack.

“State media is quoting unnamed officials saying that foreign fighters, armed groups, belonging to some previously unknown extremist group have infiltrated the country from Gaza through the tunnels criss-crossing the porous border area,” Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh reported from Cairo on Sunday.

“But we are unable to independently corroborate these allegations just yet,” she said.

Rageh said the border police patrol were ambushed by masked armed men while they were having their traditional meal at the end of the daily fast during the Muslim month of Ramadan.

Strong response

After the attack, Morsi held an urgent meeting with the country’s military, and promised a strong response to the attack.

“Those who were martyred in this attack during the time when they were breaking their fast during this holy month of Ramadan, those martyrs, their blood will not go in vain,” Morsi said.

A senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to reporters, said seven other guards were wounded in the attack.

He said the attackers seized an armoured vehicle before driving away.

Israel said the attackers commandeered two Egyptian vehicles and tried to storm its border.

One of the vehicles exploded and the second was targeted by Israeli aircraft, [said] Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman.

Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, said that eight of the attackers had been killed. He said the raid showed need for “determined Egyptian action” to impose security and “prevent terror in Sinai”.

Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, an Israeli military spokesperson, said on Monday that intelligence services had received reports of a planned attack beforehand and were “prepared for it”.

‘Ugly crime’
In a statement, Hamas, the Palestinian group controlling the Gaza Strip near Sinai, condemned the attack, calling it an “ugly crime” and extended “deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the leadership and the people of Egypt”.

Security officials told Al Jazeera early on Monday that they were in possession of three bodies of the perpetrators of the attack. The three are believed to have been killed while trying to enter Israel.

The official did not specify whether those attackers were killed by Egyptian or Israeli fire. He said that 10 people were believed to have carried out the attack.

Al Jazeera reporters said there was increased security along the border area following the attack. “The entire border area has been sealed with very heavy security on all the roads leading up to Sinai and not just the border area,” Rageh said.

Meanwhile Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry reported from Jerusalem that Egypt has indefinitely shut down the Rafah crossing on the border with the Gaza Strip. Rafah is the only crossing into Gaza not controlled by Israel.

Taher al-Nono, a Hamas spokesperson, meanwhile, said that the group was temporarily closing all tunnels along the border with Egypt immediately.

The Sinai is home to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, a source of lucrative tourist income, and is also where the country’s Bedouin, who were long marginalised under the regime of fallen president Hosni Mubarak, are based.

“There was actually a warning out three days ago directed at Israeli civilians who vacation in the Sinai, warning against possible kidnapping attacks and threats from the Sinai,” reported Al Jazeera’s Perry.

“The Sinai is known [in Israel] as the ‘wild west’ […] because really the lawlessness is out of control. There are drug runners, there are smugglers, and there’s a lot of arms in the Sinai peninsula. Add to that the tunnel system from Gaza, and I think this is something that we’ll be seeing the Israelis take action on in the next 24 hours.”

The attack comes a month after armed men believed to be Islamist fighters shot dead two Egyptian soldiers in a dawn raid in north Sinai.

Before the July attack in Sheikh Zuwaid, a town roughly 15km west of the Gaza Strip, the fighters had distributed pamphlets calling on the army, brought in to restore security, to leave the lawless north of the peninsula.

The military sent tanks and soldiers into the region last year to quell Islamist fighters, after receiving permission from Israel. Under a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Egypt should have a limited military presence in the area.

15 Egyptian Soldiers Killed By Gunmen In Sinai; Israeli Army Kills Seven
By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies
August 06, 2012

At least 15 Egyptian soldiers were killed, on Sunday evening, while several others were wounded, when gunmen attacked an Egyptian military base in Sinai. The Israeli army also killed seven gunmen, allegedly Palestinian, who reportedly hijacked a military vehicle from the Egyptian military base and attempted to drive through the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Israeli crossing.

The attack took place near border marker number 6, south of the Rafah and Karem Abu Salem crossings.

Eyewitnesses reported that the gunmen infiltrated into the Egyptian military base in the evening as the Egyptian soldiers had just started eating following a long day of fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Egyptian military sources told the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that “a major terrorist attack targeted an Egyptian military base near the Kerem Shalom Crossing”, and that “Jihadist groups, driving vehicles equipped with automatic weapons and RPG launchers, attacked the base, and managed to kidnap a number of Egyptian soldiers”, according to the sources.

Meanwhile, Israeli military sources claimed that the army “foiled an attempted attack by Palestinian gunmen who tried to infiltrate into Israel through the Kerem Shalom Crossing using the Egyptian military vehicles that were hijacked during the attack against the Egyptian military base”.

The sources added that four gunmen were killed when their hijacked armored vehicle exploded, while three more gunmen were killed when an missile fired from an Israeli fighter jet struck their vehicle. The army sealed the area and scanned it searching for gunmen.

The army further instructed Israeli residents of nearby areas to refrain from leaving their homes, and to follow all instructions by the military.

The Israeli military deployed dozens of military vehicles and soldiers along the border area with Egypt and Gaza, while military helicopters conducted several flights searching for potential infiltrators.

An Israeli military spokesperson denied reports claiming that the gunmen managed to abduct Israeli soldiers, and claimed that the gunmen who attacked the Israeli military base “infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip”.

Furthermore, Israel decided to close the Kerem Shalom Crossing until further notice, while Egypt decided to close the Rafah Border Terminal, also until further notice.

Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli military vehicles, based east of the crossing, fired at least ten shells into areas in southern Gaza, and also fired dozens of flares around the crossing; no injuries were reported.

Furthermore, Lieutenant Safwat az-Zayyat of the Egyptian army, denied Israeli reports claiming that the attack was carried out by jihadist groups, and said that “the escalation on the border was planned by Israel in order to cause rift between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and to destabilize the situation in Egypt”.

Egyptian President, Mohammad Morsi, called for an urgent meeting with the Egyptian Military Council, while Egypt’s Tourism Minister, Hisham Za’zou’, said that this attack was carried out to sabotage the Egyptian efforts to restore tourism in the country.

In a live statement after midnight, Morsi stated that the Egyptian army and the security forces have been instructed to pursue and apprehend the assailants, wherever they are, and said that “the killers, and anyone who helped them, will pay a heavy price for their crime”.

The al-Jazeera news agency, based in Qatar, stated that Morsi also held a meeting with the Egyptian Defense Minister, General Mohammad Tantawi, along with leaders of the Egyptian Military Council.

Also, an Egyptian security source said that the Egyptian army has the bodies of three assailants who were killed while trying to infiltrate into the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip denounced the attack against the Egyptian military base describing it as an “ugly and cowardly criminal attack”. It also sent its condolences to the families of the slain soldiers, the Egyptian leadership and the Egyptian people.

Several other Palestinian factions also strongly denounced the attack and said that it “only serves the Israeli interests”.

On his Facebook page, Mousa Abu Marzouq, deputy head of the Political Bureau of the Hamas movement, strongly denounced the attack against the Egyptian military base, and hinted that Israel is behind the attack, also hinting that the Israeli military killed the assailants to cover any tracks of Israeli involvement.

Abu Marzouq further stated that “this attack was carried out shortly after Israel started talking about the lack of security in Sinai, and after it issued warnings about a planned attack along the border area, in addition to instructing its residents not to head to Egypt.

Two days ago, Israel instructed all Israeli tourists to leave Sinai after receiving intelligence information about attacks “planned by Jihadist groups operating in Sinai”.

Barak calls Sinai attack, border inflitration a ‘wake-up call’ for Egypt
August 6, 2012

JERUSALEM – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called a terrorist attack in the Sinai that killed at least 15 Egyptian soldiers a “wake-up call” for Egypt.

“We hope this will be a fitting wake-up call for the Egyptians to take matters into their own hands on their side more forcefully,” Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, a day after the attack.

Armed attackers in the Sinai Peninsula killed the soldiers at the Rafah security checkpoint before attempting to infiltrate the Israeli border.

The attackers, who Barak identified as members of the Global Jihadi terror group, also kidnapped several Egyptian soldiers on Sunday evening, according to reports. Two of the vehicles used in the attack then crossed the border into Israel. The first was blown up by the terrorists to breach the fence, and the second was targeted and hit by Israeli forces, according to the Israeli military.

The six terrorists in the vehicle were killed in the blast. Barak said they were all wearing suicide bomber belts.

Israeli intelligence had information on the planned attack, which allowed the military to have helicopters in the area to strike the vehicle, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Monday.

Israel and Egypt remained in close contact during the attack, Barak said, according to reports.

Barak and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured the area of the attack on Monday. Netanyahu met with commanders and soldiers who were involved in the operation, and praised them for their actions. He also expressed regret over the killing of the Egyptian soldiers.

“I think that it is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in maintaining a quiet border,” Netanyahu said. “However, as has been made clear on numerous occasions, when it comes to the security of the citizens of Israel, the State of Israel must and can rely only on itself. Nobody can fulfill this role other than the IDF and the security services of the State of Israel, and this is how we will continue to act.”

On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Israel called on American citizens to “take precautions” in traveling to the Sinai. The warning came a day after Israel’s National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau called on “all Israelis in the Sinai to leave the area immediately and return home.”

The embassy’s security message pointed out that there have been multiple kidnappings in the Sinai of U.S. citizens over the past four years and that kidnappings of foreign tourists in the Sinai have increased since January 2012.

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling to the Sinai, except by air to Sharm el Sheik.

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