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Egypt’s Sinai Problem and Ours

Needless to say, given its physical proximity to Israel, Sinai is not only an Egyptian challenge.
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A striking photo essay [here] from EgyptSource focuses on the stark realities of Sinai and the multiple challenges it poses to the Egyptians. EgyptSource, a project of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, 

follows Egypt’s transition and provides a platform for Egyptian perspectives on the major issues – economic, political, legal, religious and human rights – that are at stake in the post-Mubarak era…

Needless to say, given its physical proximity to Israel, Sinai is not only an Egyptian challenge. That it gets such a small degree of media attention is a puzzle.

The essay that accompanies the images, by Mosaab Elshamy and published yesterday, starts this way:

Army checkpoints on the road to Sinai are almost an indication of a region at war. The vast peninsula bordering Egypt with Gaza and Israel rose to the forefront of the new Egyptian government’s troubles after an army checkpoint was attacked by unknown militants last Ramadan, killing 16 soldiers. This was not the first attack of its kind in Sinai – the region has been a hotbed of militants long before the revolution, but even more so after the fall of Mubarak. This was, however, the deadliest attack seen in Sinai, and the first under President Morsi’s rule. Backed by public anger, the military launched Operation Eagle to hunt down those behind the attack. Different claims have been made regarding the outcome, but what is evident from my visit to the region is that little has changed.

All that Sinai has become notorious for – smuggling of weapons, torturing Africans and rise of militancy – remains unchanged. The army had also declared its intention to close down the tunnels connecting Sinai to the besieged Gaza strip, but in Rafah economic activity is booming with trucks full of goods coming in and out of the town almost every hour of the day.

The same lack of security along with rise of Islamist extremists led to yet another sectarian attack on the Coptic minority in Rafah, causing many to flee for their lives, almost 2 years after their church was burnt by armed militants. [More]

Sunday produced two disturbing illustrations of today’s Sinai realities – again, almost no media coverage.

Gunmen attack buildings in Sinai’s Dahab Maan News | Published yesterday (updated) 29/10/2012 21:34

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) — Gunmen attacked government buildings on Sunday in the Egyptian city of Dahab in the Sinai peninsula, security officials said. Bedouin gunmen attacked a checkpoint at the entrance to the popular Sinai tourist destination and also attacked local government headquarters and a hospital, Egyptian security officials told Ma’an. Disorder has spread in Sinai since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising last year, with Islamist militants stepping up attacks on security forces and the Israeli border. Egypt’s president, Muhammad Mursi, has vowed to restore order.

6 hurt in shooting on children’s park in south Sinai Maan News | Published Sunday 28/10/2012 (updated) 28/10/2012 23:09

SHARM AL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Ma’an) — Gunmen opened fire in a children’s park in south Sinai on Saturday night, wounding six, officials said. The al-Fayrouz park in al-Tur city was packed with families celebrating the Eid al-Adha holiday when a group of Bedouin men opened fire, witnesses said. Four children, a man and woman suffered injuries, some serious, medics said. One child lost the fingers on her left hand, they said.

Then there’s this additional aspect of the Sinai challenge; the op ed below from Al Arabiya provides a small window into the conflicted states of mind that characterize the Egyptian – and other Arab sub-groups’ – views of the Palestinian Arabs and the multidimensional challenges they have posed for three generations.

A Palestinian state in Sinai? By AHMAD NAGUIB ROUSHDY Al Arabiya

Rumour has it, and some articles in Egyptian newspapers have stated that the increasing crossings of Palestinians to the Egyptian Sinai through the illegal tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have been taking place in accordance with a plan by the Islamist-led government of Hamas in Gaza, which has ties with the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Mursiin Egypt. The aim is to settle the Palestinians in Sinai, not as refugees but as a permanent homeland for them and to declare a Palestinian state there, substituting it for the West Bank… Every Egyptian sympathizes with the Palestinian cause, and much Egyptian blood has been shed in defense of it. But if these rumors are true, the Palestinians have shown themselves to be ungrateful and could be considered to be Egypt’s enemies. The Egyptian government should force any Palestinians now in Sinai to return to where they came from, since they cannot be considered refugees. The Mursi government’s ties with Hamas should not compromise Egypt’s security and sovereignty. When President Mursi in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September called for the right of the Palestinians to establish an independent state, he meant in Palestine and not in Egypt. Any Egyptian who helps the Palestinians or others to plunder our land must be considered a traitor. [More here]

Good to keep in mind when simple solutions are next offered up for the complex challenges in this part of the world.

About the Author: Frimet and Arnold Roth began writing and speaking publicly soon after the murder of their fifteen year-old daughter Malki Z"L in the Jerusalem Sbarro massacre, August 9, 2001 (Chaf Av, 5761). They have both been, and are, frequently interviewed for radio, television and the print media, including CNN, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, and others. Their blog This Ongoing War deals with the under-appreciated price of living in a society afflicted by terrorism which, they contend, means the entire world. Frimet is a native of Queens, NY while her husband was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. They brought their family to settle in Jerusalem in 1988. They co-founded the Malki Foundation in 2001 and are deeply involved in its work as volunteers. They can be reached at thisoingoingwar@gmail.com .


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