Thursday, August 09, 2012

Egypt Continues Sinai Offensive

The Egyptian government is continuing to go after those responsible for a series of attacks on Egyptian security posts in Sinai. It's the largest Egyptian military operation in Sinai since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Hundreds of military vehicles and personnel are involved.
Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi - whose Islamist background in the Muslim Brotherhood has been eyed with suspicion by Israel since he was elected in June - on Wednesday fired the region's governor and country's intelligence chief in response to public anger over Sunday's attack. No one has claimed responsibility for the assault, in which the assailants seized two armored vehicles to storm an Israeli border crossing. One made it through before the attackers were killed by Israeli fire. Israel says militants based in Sinai and Palestinian hardliners in neighboring Gaza pose a growing threat to its border. It says Palestinians use illegal tunnels to smuggle in guns and travel across to join those on the Egyptian side. Israel has also been wary of Mursi's ideological affinity with Hamas, the Islamist group ruling Gaza, fearing he would take a softer position on Palestinian militancy than Mubarak. Mursi has brushed aside accusations that his politics would make it difficult for him to take a strong stance against violent groups sworn to Israel's destruction. His response to Sunday's attack, which happened during the evening "iftar" meal which breaks the daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, may also be underpinned by public anger over the deaths of the border guards. In Egypt, there is wide respect for rank-and-file soldiers who are often poorly paid conscripts working in isolated places far from their families. Comments suggesting outgoing intelligence chief Mourad Mwafi had been aware of a threat but took no action fuelled that anger - despite suggestions he had been used as a scapegoat. "...we never imagined that a Muslim would kill his Muslim brother at iftar," Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted Mwafi as telling his Turkish counterpart.
Mursi is in a no-win position with the Islamists. On the one hand, he gained power because of support from the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other, attacking the Egyptian military cannot go unchallenged. The situation is being eyed warily in Israel, as the have to address the ongoing threats along Israel's southern border all while monitoring events in Syria.

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