With Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohammed Morsi ousted, Egypt’s military has launched a major crackdown on terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula, carrying out arrests and trying to seal up smuggling tunnels connecting the Sinai to Gaza.
According to Israeli media reports, Egypt is planning to deploy two additional battalions to the Sinai to stem a wave of Islamist violence that has killed 13 since Morsi was deposed two weeks ago. Israel had to approve the request for the two new battalions as the Camp David Peace Accords stipulate the Sinai is supposed to remain demilitarized.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Sunday declared a state of alert along the Israel-Egypt border, with residents being told to stay in their homes. The Egyptian State Information Service reports that Egypt’s army has killed 37 militants since launching its crackdown on terrorism, which has included gun battles and military apache helicopters giving chase to fleeing gunmen.
Besides killing at least eight Egyptian security personnel, Islamist militants in the Sinai over the past two weeks have also killed two Christians (one a priest), a 5-year-old girl and bombed a gas pipeline to Jordan.
According to the Times of Israel, Egypt will now have 11 battalions deployed in the Sinai including the two additional ones to try to gain control of a state of lawlessness that has deteriorated since President Hosni Mubarak was deposed two years ago.
The Jerusalem Post writes, “The desert peninsula has long been a security headache for Egypt and its neighbors. Large and empty, it borders Israel and the Gaza Strip and flanks the Suez Canal linking Asia to Europe. It is also home to nomad clans disaffected with rule from Cairo.”
The Times of Israel reports that Egyptian Army Spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali told Asharq al-Awsat that “terrorists have escalated their planned operations against the police and armed forces in the Sinai over the last few days. Their aim is to spread chaos and undermine Egyptian national security.”
The Army says it will respond with the “utmost severity and firmness and force” if protesters try to approach or break into its bases, according to an official quoted by Ynet News.
The Egyptian Army is concerned weapons are being smuggled via tunnels from Gaza and that Sinai-based terrorists are using those tunnels to escape capture by Egyptian security forces. It is now working intensely to destroy hundreds of tunnels by bulldozer by flooding them with water and filling their entrances with sand as seen in the video below.
An Egyptian official quoted by Israel Hayom reports that some 800 tunnels, or 80% of those operating, have been demolished.
Gaza terrorist groups including Hamas use the tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza as well as consumer goods like gas and food. As TheBlaze previously reported, a KFC franchise also used the tunnels to deliver fried chicken to Gaza.
Here is a report from Jewish News One showing Egyptian security forces in Sinai destroying tunnels leading to Gaza:
On Tuesday’s BlazeCast, Erick Stakelbeck joined Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker to talk about his new book about the Muslim Brotherhood: