A few weeks after the launch of Operation Eagle in the Sinai Peninsula, things are becoming worse. Armed groups are still like wild ghosts that attack and threaten then vanish into dust as if the tribes’ area in western Pakistan was transferred to Egypt.
Nothing is really done as far as tracking down those jihadist groups is concerned, for they are like ghosts whose whereabouts are unknown and there is very little, if any, information about them. They act very cautiously and are well acquainted with the topography of the area. According to one military official, they are even more armed than the troops trying to hunt them down.
In short, Operation Eagle was lost in mountains inhabited by ghosts and it was more complicated with those groups gaining more confidence every time they evade capture. They were also infuriated by the death sentences recently issued against their fellow militants. Consequently, they have become more audacious in their threats to carry out bombings all over the peninsula and in their intimidation of the Christian residents of the city of Rafah and who had to flee their homes.
The attack that killed one Israeli soldier and injured another necessitated a review of previous intelligence, for the attackers are neither from Sinai nor from the Gaza Strip. They came from Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta, which means that new extremist groups are finding shelter in Sinai as an alternative to the south in which they took refuge in the 1990s.
The real danger lies in the ease with which Sinai can be controlled and isolated from the rest of Egypt if those militants managed to turn themselves from dispersed ghosts into organized groups. They will, in this case, be similar to the Taliban, which started as a small group comprised of a few members then later turned into an entire state.
The activities in which those ghosts engage, such as downing a warplane and destroying several military checkpoints indicate their armament level and which amounts to possession of anti-aircraft missiles and trunks, most probably smuggled from Libya.
The mediation of some Islamist figures is not expected to yield any results and only serves to demonstrate a critical security and military failure in the face of militants that are well-trained in guerilla warfare.
The real disaster will be if the government assigns the tribes of Sinai the mission of facing those militants and maintaining law and order in the peninsula. In fact, this is what the minister of interior promised tribal chiefs in a meeting he held with them in his office a few days ago. This is a frightening promise because it paves the way for the future secession of Sinai.
What aggravates the situation is the statement issued by the official spokesman of the presidency to the effect that there are no plans to revise the peace treaty with Israel. Therefore, article four of the treaty will remain as it is and military presence in Sinai will stay minimal and incapable of fending off any danger.
(Farrag Ismail is a veteran Egyptian journalist and writer)