The Sinai becoming a terrorist hot spot
Ever since Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign from office, Egyptian security forces have been pulling out of the Sinai, despite the Camp David Accords requiring they police the region.
The Sinai is a desolate place, mostly desert, and is populated by nomads. But it has now become a terrorist hot spot as extremists and criminals of all stripes have descended on the region, setting off a crime wave and terrorist attacks directed at the Egyptian government.
Yesterday, 25 police were murdered execution style by terrorists.
The attack is among the deadliest in the peninsula since the 2011 overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak and part of a larger backlash against the state over what militants view as a slew of injustices.
"What I can say about the future is that violence will not disappear anytime soon," said Egypt expert Khalil Al-Anani. "We should expect a new cycle of violence - religious, political and social violence, and sectarian violence."
Nearly 900 died in four days of violence last week that began when security forces cleared two protest camps where thousands rallied against the July 3 overthrow of president Mohammed Morsi, who comes from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Clashes between anti-military protesters and security forces, street battles and retaliatory attacks on dozens of Christian sites and security posts have taken place since Wednesday.
Since Morsi's ouster militants have staged almost daily attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, where security forces and militants have long battled. Last week, a rocket hit the Israeli border town of Eilat, previously subject to other cross-border attacks.
Conflicting reports emerged over the cause of Monday's deaths. Security officials told the Associated Press that the 25 police were killed execution-style when militants ordered the two vehicles to stop, forced the men to lie on the ground and then shot them.
Officials first said the policemen were killed when militants fired rocket-propelled grenades on the two vehicles near the city of Rafah.
The policemen were in civilian clothes, officials told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which also left two policemen wounded.
The Sinai is an arid stretch of mountainous and desert land that has grown increasingly lawless. Since police were pulled from the streets during the 2011 uprising against Mubarak the state has failed to regain control, giving militants in much of the north free reign. Residents set up informal sharia courts as society has proved increasingly detached from the central state, and visibly hard-line Islamic.
Criminal activity thrives in the Sinai including a tunnel trade with the Gaza Strip and arms smuggling. Weapons flowed from Sudan and more recently Libya, including surface-to-air missiles. Many weapons have gone into Gaza while others have stayed in the peninsula.
The arms pipeline to Gaza is especially worrisome to Israel who has protested to the Egyptian government about the lax security. But the government has far more pressing concerns and those protests have fallen on deaf ears.
This brazen attack won't be the last we hear from the Gaza terrorists. And you can be sure that any cross border attack into Israel will be dealt with by the Jewish state harshly. If Egypt isn't going to police its own territory, Israel is not going to stand by and allow attacks on its citizens that originate in the Sinai.