Is the Islamic State group positioning itself to surround Israel from all sides? That’s what an Israeli news site is asking following the announcement by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based terrorist group, that it’s now allied with Islamic State militants.
According to Reuters, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis issued a statement Monday that read, “After entrusting God we decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries.”
This image is from an Ansar Beit al-Maqdis video released in August that showed the beheading of those it accused of passing information to Israel. (Image source: YouTube)
Israel’s NRG news site Tuesday quoted unconfirmed Arabic reports that the Islamic State announced it had set up a caliphate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, calling it “the first steps toward the invasion of Jerusalem.” According to the Associated Press, the name Ansar Beit al-Maqdis means "Champions of Jerusalem."
According to the Arabic news reports, the Islamic State urged its militants to strike Egyptian police outposts with rocket-propelled grenades and to attack Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, threatening to turn the defensive system “into plastic bags.”
It also threatened to attack the southern Israeli city of Eilat, situated on the Sinai border with Egypt.
Abdel Fattah Harhour, governor of northern Sinai, denied reports to the Al-Arabiya network that the Islamic State was now in the Sinai.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has carried out numerous attacks against Israel and in Egypt, including the August beheading of four men it accused of passing information to Israel.
Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Tuesday that jihadist spiritual leader Abu Musab al-Maqdisi called on militants to travel to Egypt, to take the battle to the capital Cairo and specifically to target Coptic Christians.
Egypt Independent reported that in his call to expand the battle, Maqdisi praised the frequent car bombings in Iraq.
“It’s imperative to move the battle to central Cairo, occupy the regime there so Sinai becomes a banned area for apostates and a base for supplying the jihad,” Maqdisi reportedly posted on jihadist websites.
The Egyptian military is currently working to establish a buffer zone between the Sinai and Gaza Strip to prevent the passage of terrorists and weapons through underground tunnels.
In October the Egyptian government declared a three-month state of emergency in parts of the Sinai after 33 security personnel were killed in attacks.