Uprooting Sinai residents helps militants burrow deeper

Uprooting Sinai residents helps militants burrow deeper
Egypt says it is confronting an invisible enemy, but it will need a radically different approach to win the hearts and minds of Sinai residents.
2 min read
31 October, 2014
Parts of the Sinai are military controlled [Andalou Agency-Getty]

The eviction of Sinai residents to make way for a military buffer zone will not end militant attacks in Egypt, military experts and political analysts say. 

Hundreds of families are being made homeless to make way for an empty corridor along the Gaza border, following a spate of attacks on army personnel.  

"I think they will not [end the attacks] for the time being, despite the attempts to restrict the groups," Safwat al-Zayat, a retired brigadier general, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.  

"These groups will up their efforts to carry out large-scale operations in and outside of the Sinai, expanding to Cairo and the Delta in the near future to show the army that their efforts have been ineffective. Getting rid of these groups won't happen overnight."

A new strategy is needed to confront armed groups, he said, as the military's tactics are better suited in confronting regular armies.

Adel Sulaiman, a retired major general and a military analyst, said the forced evictions would elicit sympathy for the armed groups among Sinai residents, and further isolate the Egyptian army from the local population.

I expect the situation in Sinai will soon become more complex because the army has lost its popular support in the area.
- Maj Gen Adel Sulaiman (retd)

"I expect the situation in Sinai will soon become more complex because the army has lost its popular support in the area," he said. "The movements of these groups are not going to be restricted as some are saying.

"It is likely that these attacks will move away from the border to any place these groups like."

An Egyptian political analyst, who asked to remain anonymous given the political climate in the country, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the Egyptian army was splitting its efforts and resources between its version of the "war on terror" in the Sinai and guarding public buildings in the cities.

"This will prevent it from winning either front, where it is fighting militias and invisible enemies," he said. "The army has not yet announced the killing or arrest of any terrorists or the seizure of weapon stockpiles in the homes it has demolished along the border. Is this part of Sinai the gap from which the armed groups come into Sinai? Will levelling this strip of land pull the roots out of terrorism, as [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-]Sisi has promised?"


This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.