Category Archives: Egypt

Libya, Egypt Seek International Aid in Fight Against Islamic State #ISIS

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AP//Libya’s internationally recognized government, with strong backing from neighboring Egypt, on Tuesday urged fellow Arab countries to provide arms to help it defeat a local Islamic State affiliate and criticized the U.S.-led coalition for confining its efforts to Syria and Iraq.

Egypt criticized what it called international “double standards” and “lethargy” in dealing with the spread of the IS group in Libya, where the militants have exploited the chaos following the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, seizing his hometown of Sirte and other areas.

Egypt has meanwhile been grappling with a wave of attacks by another IS affiliate based in the northern Sinai Peninsula, and last week IS fighters claimed to have beheaded a Croat abducted on the outskirts of Cairo.

Cairo’s representative to the Arab League, Tarek Adel, said his country would keep pressuring the international community to lift an arms embargo and provide assistance to Libya’s military. Egypt has targeted Libya’s IS (Daesh) branch with airstrikes, including after the group killed 21 captive Egyptian Christians earlier this year.

The Arab League emergency meeting Tuesday was called for after IS fighters in Sirte put down a local revolt against their rule, killing rival Muslim clerics, desecrating the bodies of prisoners and seizing new ground. “Libya is bleeding,” Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi told the gathering of resident diplomats. He warned that his ill-equipped government is unable to fight off IS, which he said was seeking to establish a base in Libya as it faces U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

Libya has slid into chaos in the years since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising, and is now divided between an elected parliament and government in the far eastern town of Tobruk and an Islamist militia-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli. The North African nation has been under a U.N. arms embargo since 2011. In March, the Security Council renewed the ban, but allowed a sanctions committee to review requests for exemptions. U.N. members are concerned that weapons could fall into the hands of any number of armed groups.

Al-Dairi said U.N.-brokered talks to form a national unity government should not “obstruct” arming the military to fight IS. Egypt’s representative said fighting terrorism should run “parallel” to the political process, and “requires urgent movement on the international and regional levels to dry up the sources of terrorism and their finances and to lift the arms embargo.” “What is surprising is that double-standard with which the international community is dealing with the threats of Daesh,” Adel said, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group. “There is energy and work when it comes to pushing it back in Syria and Iraq, but ignoring the same group’s practices in Libya.”

In a statement over the weekend, Egypt’s foreign ministry sharply criticized the international coalition, saying that “despite our constant urging, it has refused to be more emphatic, decisive and swift in its response to Daesh. This has undoubtedly undermined international efforts to combat terrorism in the region.” In a statement after the Tuesday meeting, the Arab League urged member states to help Libya, separately or as a group, without elaborating. Arab League officials said member states are meeting next week to discuss the formation of a joint Arab force to be used to intervene in regional crises and combat terrorism.

ISIS Hits Egypt Patrol Ship With a Rocket

By Arutz Sheva Staff

 Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Sinai fired a rocket at an Egyptian patrol ship in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday, scoring a direct hit and setting it on fire.

The coastguard ship noticed the group of ISIS terrorists on the shore and exchanged fire with them, according to Egyptian military statements and witnesses cited by the UK Daily Mail. The ship was two miles off the coast of northern Sinai, and roughly two miles from the coast of Gaza.

After the gunfight continued for a certain amount of time, the jihadists unleashed the rocket which caused the ship to retreat. According to the military, no soldiers were killed although several reportedly suffered minor burns.

Egyptian army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir wrote on Facebook that there no one on board was killed, but he did not detail how much damage was sustained to the ship or what type of craft it was.

Security officials said the ship and others like it regularly patrol the area, and also are used often to transport soldiers and police officers from Sinai to the rest of Egypt.

ISIS has been active in Sinai launching numerous large-scale attacks on Egyptian soldiers, ever since last November when the Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis jihadist group pledged loyalty to ISIS and joined the group, switching its name to Sinai Province.

ISIS has been expanding its presence as well; on Saturday the group attacked the Italian consulate in Cairo, marking its first strike on a Western target in the country.

Egypt vs. ISIS: Sinai an official battlefield

The July 1 Sinai attacks were not the first, but they were the most shocking. They followed the assassination of the prosecutor general, which made linking the two incidents inevitable, especially since they both took place around the second anniversary of the June 30 protests that toppled former President Mohamed Mursi.

Confusion ensued due to contradictory reports on the number of deaths, with an official figure of 21 but local sources saying 70-100. The media described the battle, between Islamist militants and the army, as the fiercest since the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel. Meanwhile, officials are trying to alleviate fears over the growing power the militant group Sinai Province, which is affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Syria and Iraq

“This specific attack is by far the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Daniel Nisman, CEO of the Levantine Group Risk Consultancy, adding that the danger lies mainly in a plan to take over Sinai. “It’s not a hit and run – this is what [ISIS] used in places like Syria and Iraq to capture and hold territory.” Nisman said the operation underlined the shortcomings of the “scorched land” strategy of the Egyptian army, as it makes it harder for the state to garner local support.

Sinai security expert Zack Gold described the attack as “new and worrying,” and said militants either aimed to take over the city of Sheikh Zuwaid, where the attacks took place, or wanted to drag the army into an actual battle. “Either one is unprecedented.” However, he said comparing Sinai to Iraq and Syria was unrealistic, and the success of militants in the peninsula was extremely unlikely.

“Egypt isn’t Iraq; this isn’t Anbar. The [Egyptian] military is more cohesive, has more firepower, and has the capability to get them out,” Gold said, adding that the main obstacle is the number of civilians that could be killed in the process.

Journalist Adel al-Qadi said the analogy with Syria and Iraq is not far-fetched. “For the first time, Sinai Province manages to control the streets and military checkpoints of Sheikh Zuwaid, and to besiege police stations and security camps, in addition to planting IEDs [improvised explosive devices] on highways to prevent rescue. All this while simultaneously attacking 15 targets with all sorts of weapons,” he wrote. “This looks like real war.”

Tactics

Qadi noted the large number of militants who took part in the attack – estimated at 300-500 – and the advanced training they must have received, especially in the use of anti-aircraft missiles.

Eissa al-Kharafin, one of the elders of the northern Sinai tribe of Armilat, said the militants exhibited unusual power in the attack. “We were shocked to see them roaming the streets of Sheikh Zuwaid freely, and to see military facilities besieged,” he said, adding that the army was taken by surprise.

Aref al-Akour, a chieftain of Al-Sawarka tribe, blamed the state for following the same strategy after every attack. “With every attack, the state imposes harsher measures, but apparently militants are not affected and civilians in the region are the only ones who really suffer,” he said.

Yehia Abu Nassira, also of Al-Sawarka, said launching airstrikes is not the solution, especially in light of civilian casualties. “Terrorism will only be eliminated through cooperation between the state and the locals of Sinai,” he said. “The state needs to use their help instead of only pointing fingers at them. We have reached the point where almost all members of tribes are considered suspects.”

Khaled Abdel Rahman, political analyst and member of the Revolutionary Socialists Movement, also underlined the tense relation between the state and Sinai residents. “According to the Egyptian state, if you are from Sinai then you are guilty until proven innocent,” he wrote.

Abdel Rahman added that militants in Sinai keep making a more powerful comeback each time, which was obvious in the last attack, because they are technically in a more advantageous position than the army. “The mountainous nature and rugged terrains of Sinai serve them well. Plus, they know that the Egyptian army is not trained to engage in guerrilla wars.”

Mistakes

While admitting that the last attack was like no other in terms of tactics, weaponry and purpose, writer Fahmi Howeidi said Sinai Province committed a grave mistake by assuming they could capture Sinai or even a small part of it. “It seems the group was tempted by the relative success it has achieved in Syria and Iraq, and accordingly decided to follow the same pattern in Egypt,” he wrote.

“They totally overlooked the fact that Egypt is different; it is a proper state that has a powerful army and a population of 90 million, and is not plighted by sectarian wars as is the case in Iraq and Syria.” Assuming that Egypt is a failed state doomed their plans, Howeidi added.

However, the state made two major mistakes, he said. “The first is insisting on a military rather than political and social solution, and this has not proven successful at all. The second is putting all Islamists in one basket and considering them all suspects, which increases resentment against the regime.”

Foreign involvement

However, the military approach is supported by numerous experts who believe confrontation is inevitable. General Abdel Rafea Darwish, co-founder of the Knights of Egypt party for army veterans, said the state needed to officially declare war in Sinai due to the sophistication of militants’ training and ammunition.

“The weapons used in the last attack proves that militants are receiving foreign funding,” he said, adding that the United States and Israel are most likely implicated and refuting claims about the involvement of Qatar and Turkey.

Zakaria Hussein, professor of strategic studies and former head of the Nasser Military Academy, said Sinai was already a war zone. “Militant groups have already declared war against the state, and this war is ongoing since terrorism is not eliminated,” he said.

General Moustafa Kamel, professor of political and strategic sciences, agreed that the war was far from over. “In fact, it is impossible to predict when it will end since there are foreign powers behind it,” he said, without specifying which countries.

General Farid Haggag, member of the London-based International Center for Strategic Studies, said the state needed to take stricter measures to speed up the elimination of terrorism in Sinai. “All residents of border areas have to be evacuated to create a buffer zone that no one from outside the army can have access to,” he said. “Anyone who tries to trespass is to be killed immediately.”

Haggag said the state should reveal the countries funding terrorist operations in Sinai and sever diplomatic ties with them. “This will make it harder for those countries to keep the funds coming, and will thus weaken militants.”

Brigadier General Mohamed Samir, official spokesman of the Egyptian Armed Forces, said all Sinai is currently under state control, and reassured civilians that the army would make sure it safeguards their lives and property while targeting militants. “I want everyone to rest assured that the militants’ days in Sinai are numbered,” he said. “It is only a matter of time before terrorism in Sinai is totally eliminated.”

Terror in the Sinai: Ongoing battles, police under siege, at least 100 dead

Roi Kais, News Agencies// Egyptian security and military officials said  on Wednesday that Islamic militants staged simultaneous attacks, including a suicide car bombing, on army checkpoints in northern Sinai, killing at least 100 including soldiers and civilians. 

An Egyptian newspaper said that 64 soldiers and police officers had been killed. While Hamas said that its border with Egypt would be reinforced by extra military operatives.

Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement on Twitter.

An Egyptian military spokesman said battles were ongoing and that airstrikes against terrorist were also continuing.

Smoke billows after attack in Sinai
Smoke billows after attack in Sinai

 

The Egyptian military issued a statement saying that 70 terrorists had participated in attacks on five checkpoints. It said it returned fire, killing 22 terrorists and destroying three vehicles.

Egyptian media outlets reported that the coordinated attacks in northern Sinai included three suicide bombings.

Officials said militants also took soldiers captive and seized several armored vehicles. Al Arabiya reported that the Egyptian military was boosting its forces in the northern Sinai and the area bordering Gaza. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Defense Ministry announced a level three state of emergency.

Witnesses told Egyptian media outlets that the town of Sheikh Zuweid felt like a warzone, with battles between the IS-affiliated militants and security forces. According to these reports, the militants mined roads in order to limit movement and placed explosive charges around the police headquarters, preventing law enforcement from leaving.

“We are under siege,” a source in the police station told one outlet.  The source denied unverified reports that the town had been fully overrun.

  The attacks came just two days after the assassination in Cairo of the country’s top prosecutor. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi vowed on Tuesday to step up a two-year crackdown on militants.

Militants in northern Sinai have battled security forces for years but stepped up their attacks following the July 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Al-Sisi, then the nation’s army chief, led the ouster and went to become Egypt’s president, winning a landslide election a year ago.

Wednesday’s attacks came in swift response to al-Sisi’s pledge the previous day to carry out justice for the prosecutor general’s assassination — and possibly move to execute Muslim Brotherhood leaders, an Islamist group from which Morsi hails.

Pounding his fist as he spoke Tuesday at the funeral of Barakat, who led the prosecution and oversaw scores of cases against thousands of Islamists, Al-Sisi’s comments seemed to signal an even tougher campaign on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist group that is now outlawed and declared a terrorist organization.

Egypt has since Morsi’s ouster waged a crackdown that has led to thousands of arrests, mass convictions and death sentences. Morsi is among those condemned to die, but has a potentially lengthy appeal process ahead of him.

Al-Sisi said the government was ready to brush aside criticisms and free the judiciary’s hand for a “battle” the country is prepared to wage.

“The judiciary is restricted by laws, and swift justice is also restricted by laws. We will not wait for that,” el-Sissi said.

Action will be taken within days “to enable us to execute the law, and bring justice as soon as possible,” he said. “We will stand in the face of the whole world, and fight the whole world.”

In a thinly veiled reference to jailed members of the Brotherhood,al-Sisi blamed the violence on those “issuing orders from behind bars,” and warned: “If there is a death sentence, it will be carried out.”

 

 

Egypt to Appoint Israel Ambassador, after 3 Years

Three years after it withdrew its ambassador from Israel, when Operation Pillar of Defense was launched in Gaza, Egypt is about to send a new ambassador to its Tel Aviv embassy.

Hazem Hayrath, 57, who was a senior assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister until recently, was tapped as the new ambassador to Israel and will discharge his duties from the Jewish state.

He will replace the current ambassador, Atef Salem, who was urgently recalled to Cairo in November of 2012, just two months after his appointment, and has since been technically working as Cairo’s Israel ambassador – from Cairo. Salem was recalled by then-president Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, to protest Israel’s Gaza operation.

The formal changing of the guard is to take place in September.

Following the takeover by General Abdel Fattah a-Sisi in Egypt, Israel appointed a new ambassador to Cairo, Haim Koren. Since then, the countries have been discussing the return of the Egyptian ambassador to Israel.

The Foreign Ministry told Arutz Sheva that it is pleased with the appointment and that it hopes for fruitful cooperation with the new ambassador.

Sinai: Islamic State Claim Rocket Attack on UN Airport

Al-Qaeda supporters in the Sinai

By Ben Ariel/Reuters

Sinai Province, Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, fired rockets at the direction of an airport in Sinai used by UN peacekeeping forces on Tuesday night, Reuters reported.

Security sources told the news agency there were no casualties in the attack. Details of the attack were not immediately clear, with some sources saying the rockets fell inside the airport and others saying they fell outside.

Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack on several Twitter accounts linked to it, according to Reuters.

Sinai Province, formerly known as Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist attacks in the restive Sinai Peninsula over the last few years.

Among the attacks claimed by the group since Morsi’s ouster was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai.

Most recently, members of the group killed two Egyptian judges and a prosecutor in the Sinai, in an attack which came hours after a court in Cairo sentenced ousted president Mohammed Morsi to death for his role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

The leader of Sinai Province later called on the group’s followers to continue to attack local judges.