Sinai militias cut Egypt-Israel trade ties amid declining security
DEBKAfile Special Report October 10, 2011, 9:09 PM (GMT+02:00)
The claim Friday by Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi, head of the military junta ruling Egypt, of "complete security on the Sinai Peninsula" was belied Monday, Oct. 10, by the Israeli Counterterrorism Bureau's warning against travel to Sinai for the coming Sukkot festival. Israelis already there were urged to leave at once.
While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government are leaning over backwards to pretend business with Egypt is back to normal after a mob burned and sacked the Israel embassy in Cairo on Sept. 10, this could not be farther from the truth.
To this day, the Israeli ambassador has not returned to his post and a skeleton staff of four Israeli officials is working from one of the foreign embassies in secret to prevent another mob attack. Jerusalem has also withheld complaint about the final stoppage of Egyptian natural gas supplies since the Sinai pipeline was sabotaged for the sixth time on Sept. 27.
The stoppage is costly. Israel must shell out about $2.7 million a day on substitute fuel for its power stations to make up for the missing 45 percent of its needs which Egypt is under contract to supply.
As to Tantawi's claim of "complete security in Sinai", for three months, Israel has kept substantial combat strength in place to keep the South safe from the Hamas, Jihad Islami and al Qaeda cells running loose in Sinai and awaiting their chance for another cross-border incursion for armed attacks or abductions.
The PMO had no choice but to warn Israeli travellers of their peril from terrorists in Sinai ahead of the festival. But a high-ranking military source told DEBKA: "The Counterterrorism Bureau might just as well have extended the travel advisory for Sukkot to cover the entire region of southern Israel between Eilat, Mitzpe Ramon and up to the Nitzana border crossing between Israel and Egypt."
Officers at the IDF General Command wonder for how much longer the elite Golani Brigade can be kept pinned on the Egyptian border on emergency counter-terror duty without impairing training routines.
At least one large Palestinian Jihad Islami cell from the Gaza Strip is known to be lurking in "secure" Sinai ready to strike across the border. Even the extra strength Egypt deployed in Sinai with Israeli's permission has not lifted a finger against any of these terrorist cells.
Neither was action taken when three weeks ago, in a further sharp decline in security, armed Bedouin militias from Northern Sinai began blocking the main highway from their region to the Nitzana crossing terminal, abruptly cutting off the passage of Egyptian trucks carrying goods to Israel and of Israeli convoys crossing in the opposite direction.
It is obvious that the armed Bedouin, who sell intelligence and logistic services to the mixed bag of radical Islamic terrorist groups infesting Sinai, believe they have nothing to fear from the generals in Cairo or the uncomplaining, passive Israelis.
The Supreme Military Council ruling Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown is not exactly in control in mainland Egypt either, including the capital.
Sunday night, Oct. 9, a Coptic demonstration outside the state TV station to protest the authorities' failure to protect their churches from radical Islamic attacks ended with 24 dead of whom 17 were Copts and more than 200 injured. The Copts, who make up more than one-tenth of Egypt's 85 million inhabitants, were then attacked by hoodlums wielding clubs, stones and machetes. But the security forces turned their guns on the Copts and drove tanks against them – not the rowdies shouting Islam, Islami!
Egyptian Prime Minister Esssam Sharaf Monday accused "foreign and domestic meddlers" of hatching a "dirty conspiracy." But he did not address the spreading doubts about Egypt's ability to effect a transition to a pluralist democracy when Islamist thugs rule the streets without fear or the consequent rapid decline in national security.