Violence Plagues Sinai: Egyptian Commander Survives Attack, Military HQ Bombed
by Joshua Levitt
Egypt’s desert outposts in the Sinai were plagued by violence on Thursday as armed assailants attacked military forces with guns and suicide bombs, Egyptian and Israeli media reported.
The escalation in violence against the military across the lawless Sinai comes as retribution against the Egyptian government, now run by de-facto military rule, after its crack down on Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo on Sunday, when hundreds were injured and more than 50 killed.
Egypt’s state-run MENA reported that General Said Abdel-Karim and at least three other soldiers were wounded by a bomb placed on the highway linking Al-Qusaima and Al-Housna in central Sinai on Thursday.
In the northern town of Rafah, assailants exchanged fire with security forces at a military intelligence headquarters, MENA reported. At Al-Arish, in the North, unidentified assailants opened fire on an armored personnel carrier and a security checkpoint. Israel’s Walla news said Israeli Border Police closed the Sinai crossing of Nizzana after shooting on the Egyptian side of the border.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the violence, but a twin bomb linked to a Palestinian-registered mobile phone’s SIM card was found at an empty military intelligence office in Rafah that was hit by a bomb on Wednesday.
Egyptian border police have shut down many of the tunnels that connect the Sinai to the neighboring Gaza Strip. Though many members of the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, have been arrested, several are working with Egyptian militants in the Sinai.
One of the Sinai-based militant groups, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, in an online statement on Wednesday, claimed responsibility for attacks on Monday at a security headquarters in Al-Tor that killed two and 48 injured, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported. Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for several militant attacks, including the bomb that targeted the Egyptian interior minister’s motorcade in September.
Along with the Al-Tor explosion on Monday, Egypt was hit by two further attacks later in the day, in Cairo and the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where five soldiers and an officer were killed.
On Sunday, deadly clashes erupted in Cairo as Morsi supporters marched towards Tahrir Square, the locus of Cairo’s revolution, where thousands of pro-Army supporters were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1973 “Yom Kippur” war against Israel, when the Jewish destroyed the entirety of Cairo’s Air Force, though the Egyptians celebrate the anniversary as a victory.
The rally was interrupted by hundreds of supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which the Interior Ministry blamed for the start of the violence. In a statement, the ministry said 400 Morsi supporters had been arrested across Egypt on Sunday while attempting to “storm public squares.”
The Brotherhood said it holds “the commanders of the July 3rd coup” – namely Army chief and de-facto Egyptian ruler Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim – responsible for “crimes of violence” against protesters. Sunday night, on live television, Al-Sisi vowed to continue to fulfill “the people’s mandate to confront terrorism.”
The retributions for Sunday’s violence began immediately, with a police officer being killed outside a police station in Al-Arish, Egyptian state television reported.