Bedouin under attack from Sinai to Hebron
At Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, local Bedouin families are emptying their homes, loading belongings into vans as soldiers look on from armored cars. At eight border villages, 680 houses—homes to 1,165 families—are being demolished to create a "security zone." Residents were ordered to evacuate on 48 hours notice. Some monetary compensation is being offered, but no provisions for new housing have been made, and landlords are jacking up rents in the Sinai in response to the sudden demand. Dynamite as well as bulldozers is being used to demolish the villages. The operation will result in a buffer 13.5 kilometers long and 500 meters wide. But some Bedouin pledge to resist relocation. A woman at Ibshar village said: "I'm not leaving my house even if they kill me. I was born and raised in this house. If they want the terrorists, they know where they are. There’s no need to force us from our homes." (Middle East Eye, Nov. 6; Reuters, Nov. 5)
Clashes in Egypt's Sinai; militants attack Israel
Two attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula killed at least 30 troops Oct. 24. At least 27 people died in the first attack, a car-bomb blast at a checkpoint in the al-Kharouba area northwest of al-Arish, near the border with the Gaza Strip. Hours later, a gun-battle then broke out in al-Arish town, leaving another three dead. (Reuters, BBC News, Oct. 24) One day earlier, attackers inside Egypt fired an anti-tank missile and automatic rifles at a military vehicle in Israel, wounding two soldiers. The Israeli military has asked residents in the area to remain in their homes while an investigation is underway, and suggested the skirmish came as troops foiled a "violent drug smuggling attempt." (Al Jazeera, Oct. 23)
Gaza: a war for oil?
Well, we don't think so either, actually. But Revolution News brings some interesting facts to light in a piece entitled "Bombing for Oil: Gaza, Israel and the Levant Basin." It seems that in 1999, British Gas Group (BG) and Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) signed a 25-year agreement with the Palestinian Authority for offshore rights on the Gaza coast. In 2000, as drilling began, BG and CCC found gas (not oil) fields, dubbed Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2. The companies were granted a 90% ownership of any reserves (60% and 30% respectively for BG and CCC), with a 10% share for the Palestinians. Gaza Marine 1 is entirely located in "Palestinian territorial waters," with reserves estimated at 28 billion cubic meters. Gaza Marine 2, or the "Gaza Border Field" straddles the maritime border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, with an estimated 3 billion cubic meters.
ISIS behind West Bank abductions?
Israel's Haaretz reported June 14 that a "Pamphlet Number 1" issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and circulated around Hebron is claiming responsibility for the abduction of three Israelis in the West Bank—but the statement's authenticity is in doubt. The account notes that a "similar case occurred two years ago, when Palestinian groups carried out operations under the banner of the Nusra Front," which similarly rose to prominence in the Syrian civil war as the leader of the Islamist rebels. In other words, aspiring local jihadists may be adopting the names of the Syrian Qaedists to cash in on their cachet. Of course given al-Qaeda's franchise model, real organizational ties may follow appropriation of the name. Other groups operating in Sinai and Gaza such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claim affiliation to al-Qaeda, "while Arab governments sometimes term Salafi groups in their territories as Al-Qaida to legitimize their suppression." Algemeiner reports that Reuter's Jerusalem bureau fielded a call from one "Dawlat al-Islam," identified as an ISIS branch operating in Hebron, claiming responsibility for the abductions.
Egypt prepares mass executions; US prepares aid
An Egyptian court in Minya, south of Cairo, on March 24 sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, in a mass trial that lasted only two sessions. The 529 are accused in an attack on a police station that left a senior officer dead in protests last August after Morsi was deposed. All but 147 were tried in absentia; only 16 were acquitted. The verdicts are subject to appeal and may still be overturned. Amnesty International called it the largest issuance of simultaneous death sentences in recent years anywhere in the world. "This is injustice writ large and these death sentences must be quashed. Imposing death sentences of this magnitude in a single case makes Egypt surpass most other countries’ use of capital punishment in a year," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa program director at Amnesty. (AI, AP, BBC News, March 24)
Egypt: jihad against feloul?
Egypt's military is denying that its chief of staff, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, told Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah that he will run for president in elections that are still yet to be scheduled. The newspaper quoted him as saying he could "not reject the demand" of the people that he should stand. Former strongman Hosni Mubarak meanwhile said in an interview with an independent Egyptian journalist that al-Sisi would be the next president. "The people want Sisi and the people's will shall prevail," journalist Fajer al-Saeed quoted Mubarak as telling her at the armed forces hospital where he is being held in Cairo.
Sinai car bomb kills 12 Egyptian soldiers
At least 12 Egyptian soldiers were killed and dozens injured in a car bomb Nov. 20 near the Sinai city of El-Arish, security officials told Ma'an News Agency. A car laden with explosives hit two buses carrying around 100 Egyptian soldiers, the officials said. Egyptian security sources told Ma'an that a Hyundai Verna was parked on the right-hand side of the main road between Rafah and El-Arish, and had signaled that it had broken down. The car was then remotely detonated as four unarmored personnel carriers passed by. Egyptian officials said the militants who detonated the car bomb were being updated by others about the movement of the vehicles, which were loaded at a site in Rafah.
Egypt: clashes in Cairo, insurgency in Sinai
Deadly clashes erupted in Cairo Oct. 6 as pro-Morsi marches protesting the military converged on Tahrir Square, where thousands were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1973 war against Israel in a display of support for the army. In the ineivtable melee, police intervened with tear-gas and armored vehicles. Confrontations also ocurred in Giza, Minya and elsewhere outside the capital, with the death toll reaching 51 and some 500 detained. The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a coalition of Islamist forces supporting deposed president Mohamed Morsi, claimed that at least 11 protesters were killed in Cairo. The anti-Morsi movement Tamarod began gathering at Tahrir Square the previous evening, chanting pro-military slogans. Interim President Adly Mansour in a televised speech pledged to "defeat much-hated terrorism and blind violence with the rule of law that will protect the freedom of citizens." (Al Ahram, Al Arabiya, Oct. 6; Middle East Online, Oct. 6)
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