Since 2011, the Sinai Peninsula has transformed into a hotbed for terrorist organizations such as the Wilayat Sina (Province of Sinai), who have pledged their allegiance to ISIS. Inevitably, these groups may one day turn their attention to Israel’s southern border.
Since the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, there has been an unprecedented growth in terror groups operating from the Sinai. These insurgencies have taken advantage of the chaotic situation that ensued in the area, which led to waves of violence that has spilled over into Israel’s southern border.
In response to the rejuvenation of terrorist activity from the Sinai Peninsula and the many infiltrations in 2011, the IDF (Zahal) initiated the “Hourglass Project”, and in 2013, completed the construction of a large fence that stretches throughout the Israeli border with the Egyptian Sinai. The fence is equipped with 24-hour surveillance cameras and is patrolled by multiple forces, including the Carcal Battalion, which has secured the border with Egypt for the past 10 years.
This hasn’t stopped a few terrorist groups from expanding and establishing their headquarters in the Sinai Peninsula, where they operate today.
Wilayat Sina (Province of Sinai)
Wilayat Sina (Province of Sinai), once named Ansar Bait al-Maqdis emerged as an extremist militant group after the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, taking advantage of the security vacuum in the Sinai Peninsula during this period. They are considered one of the more violent and organized groups to operate within the Sinai, and in the last few years have increased their attacks against Egyptian military outposts, killing many people.
With the emergence of ISIS (Islamic State), the group pledged their allegiance and became their Sinai province. Similarly to the main province in Syria, they use brutal tactics against civilians. One of the benefits of associating themselves with ISIS is that they can receive support financially and tactically, in heavy weapons and artillery.
Ansar Bait al-Maqdis pledge their allegiance to ISIS. Photo Credit: i24 News
Province of Sinai has declared Egypt and Israel to be their targets. Over the years, the terror group has executed multiple attacks on Israel’s southern border.
- In 2013, the group claimed responsibility for a cross-border attack against IDF (Zahal) troops patrolling southern border, killing one IDF (Zahal) soldier and injuring another.
- On January 31, 2014, the group claimed responsibility for a rocket launched at Eilat. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System.
- On January 20, 2014, the group claimed responsibility for two grad rockets launched at Eilat, which landed in open areas.
- On July 2015, one of the largest attacks in the Sinai since the Israel-Egypt peace treaty was initiated by Province of Sinai, near Israel’s southern border. They targeted Egyptian military outposts, killing groups of Egyptian soldiers.
- On July 3, 2015, they claimed responsibility for three grad rockets that were fired into southern Israel. No injuries were reported.
Bedouin Tribesmen showing their support for al-Qaeda
A large portion of the population in the Sinai is consisted of Bedouins. Many of them are recruited by terrorist organizations such as al-Qeada and ISIS. These Bedouin tribesmen have turned into armed militants, and usually target government forces.
Since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, there has been an increase in violence by armed Bedouin and Islamists.
On August 5, 2012, a group of armed men dressed as Bedouins infiltrated Israel’s southern border with an Armored Personnel Carrier after attacking an Egyptian army outpost. They crashed their vehicle through the Kerem Shalom crossing with the intent to kidnap an IDF (Zahal) soldier, and ensued a firefight with IDF (Zahal) soldiers. Six of the attackers were killed while none of the IDF (Zahal) soldiers were injured.
The Armored Personnel Carrier on fire after it was targeted by the Israel Air Force, August 2012
Mujahideen Shura Council
The Mujahideen Shura Council is an armed Salafist group that has been linked to al-Qaeda, and is active through the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. The group was formed around the time of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution with the goal of coordinating with other Salafist jihadist groups to carry out attacks against Israel. The group is responsible for numerous rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, but are also known to have carried out attacks from the Sinai Peninsula.
As of February 2014, the group declared its support for ISIS and is sympathetic to their cause. Months later, the Mujahideen Shura Council was declared a terrorist organization by the United States.
One of their more large attacks carried out on the Egyptian-Israeli border was on June 18, 2012. The group claimed responsibility for a cross-border attack where they placed an improvised explosive device near the border, and opened fire on civilian vehicles. One Israeli civilian was killed. The terrorists were killed before they could extend the reach of their attack. They claimed it was a revenge attack for the death of Osama bin Laden.