Ms. Herman is a PhD candidate in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona.
Throughout the twentieth century, the Sinai Peninsula has occupied an awkward position in the nation-state system. Claimed by Egypt — and at times Israel — the population has by and large not identified itself with the Egyptian state. The contentious history of the territory, combined with the disenfranchisement of the population, has played a significant role in the increased lawlessness throughout large portions of the peninsula. In particular, transnational criminal undertakings and the growth of extremist elements have been the result of this disenfranchisement. The continuing state-level power vacuum in the Sinai is a threat to the cold peace between Egypt and Israel and is adversely affecting the precarious balance of power currently exercised by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
This article examines how the alienation of the local population of the Sinai by the Mubarak regime allowed for the reconstituting and strengthening of radical groups in the Sinai. As well, this legacy, coupled with a policy of non-engagement by Mohammed Morsi's government and the militant approach of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's regime, has led to the current precarious balancing act in the Sinai. This insecurity, in turn, has a detrimental effect on the stability of the Gaza Strip and the relationship between Egypt and Israel. The current situation should force all three parties involved to face the reality that overt cooperation with one another may be the best way to address this instability.
To comprehend the current situation in the Sinai, it is important to examine both the state-level interactions and policies in effect and the individual factors and historical connections that are in place. The demographics of the Sinai — in particular the close relationship of much of the population, both financial and familial, to the Gaza Strip — is key to understanding trends in the growing radicalization of portions of the population. At a state-power level, the tempestuous relationship of the Sinai population to the central Egyptian administration is a crucial factor. Additionally, the place of the Sinai at the middle of the cold peace between Israel and Egypt is significant in studying and addressing the increased radicalization of the Sinai. In particular, the 1948 and 1967 wars and the 1979 peace treaty all saw the Sinai and its population as a pawn to be traded for varying levels of strategic advantage.
THE SINAI PENINSULA
The Sinai Peninsula is approximately 130 miles from east to west and 240 miles from north to south, covering an area of 23,000 square miles. The peninsula encompasses five of Egypt's 27 governorates; the three most populous ones, straddling the Suez Canal on the western edge of the Sinai, for various cultural and political reasons discussed below are not a focus of this paper. The peninsula is then divided into the north and south Sinai governorates. These two account for approximately 550,000 people, about 0.7 percent of Egypt's total population.1 These figures include the many Egyptian migrant workers who primarily come from the Nile Delta to work in the tourism industry in south Sinai. The largest population concentrations in north and south Sinai are on the northern and western coastal fringes, where the cities are located.
Approximately 300,000 Bedouin live in the Sinai, a small proportion of whom are still fully nomadic. This population is split between the two provinces and accounts for about 70 percent of the total.2 Approximately 15 major tribes control the majority of the Sinai, several of which share familial ties with Bedouin populations in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Israeli-held Negev.3 Many of these Bedouin tribes are said to have origins in the Sinai dating back to much earlier migration to the area from the Arabian Peninsula.4 This Bedouin population is proud of the ancestry linking it to the Arabian Peninsula and looks to familial histories in the Gulf as a source of cultural and religious authenticity.5 These close personal and historical relations with the Gulf are significant in understanding the positioning and acceptance in the Sinai of various Salafi clerics, often from the Gulf.
Additionally, many Bedouin and other Sinai residents have Palestinian ancestry, another important link to the "East" (discussed in more detail below). Much of the population of the Sinai, in particular the Bedouin population, links itself more closely with the histories and discourses of the Eastern Mediterranean and Gulf regions rather than the Pharaonic heritage espoused by the Egyptians of the Nile Delta.6 There has also been minimal effort to integrate and engage the population of the Sinai in discussion of these differences and their place in Egyptian society. Rather, the economic and cultural policies of the central Egyptian government have sought to "Egyptianize" this population — at times forcibly — without acknowledging these alternative identities.7
The Bedouin of the Sinai have been disproportionately persecuted by various leaders and occupying powers over the last two-and-a-half centuries. During the time of the Ottoman Empire and the British occupation, they were targeted for settlement programs.8 Their nomadic nature was seen as a distinct threat to the burgeoning nation-state model, which demanded population control within state boundaries. Following World War II and the establishment of Israel in 1948, many Bedouin of the Negev were displaced into the Sinai, changing tribal relations within the territory.9 This displacement also saw an influx of Palestinians living outside of the political boundaries of Gaza. The concept of "Gaza" as the territorial entity today referred to as the Gaza Strip was largely a creation of the British mandate and the 1948 and 1967 wars. Previously, the Gaza province was not conceptualized within such rigid geographic boundaries. The solidification of borders classified many Palestinians as residents of Egypt, but without access to the services or rights of Egyptian nationals. Nor was this group provided refugee status and services by either UNRWA or UNHCR, largely for political reasons.10 While legally classified as residents of Egypt, these populations continue to look east to the Palestinian territories and the Gulf for guidance in their identity formations and actions.
The 1967 and 1973 wars dramatically changed the dynamics of the Egyptian government's policy toward the Bedouin in the Sinai. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, these Bedouin were largely ignored in government policy making. Then, subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai in 1982, following the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, many in Egypt, in particular those within the government, viewed the Bedouin population as Israeli collaborators and a potential fifth column.11 It is also significant that, as part of the peace agreement, Egypt was limited in the type and quantity of military personnel and arms that could be kept in the Sinai.12 This has led to substantial garrisoning of Egyptian civil police there, with minimal and poor-quality armaments — making them targets for many of the arms smugglers and other parties involved in criminal activities.
The mistreatment of the Bedouin population continued and broadened in scope throughout the Mubarak era; they were economically deprived and became politically alienated. Following the return of the Sinai to Egypt, Mubarak invested heavily in turning the Red Sea coastal area into a tourist haven.13 However, this required substantial internal migration, for both the construction and staffing of the various resorts and assorted endeavors.14 Egyptian government policies in the Sinai that guided the development of the Red Sea Riviera by and large excluded the local Bedouin population from any place in it, even forbidding them from joining the police, army or peninsula peacekeeping force.15 Similarly, almost all of the infrastructure and tourism development took place in south Sinai. Bedouin living in the north hardly had access to basic services such as running water and property registration.16 The exclusion of the Bedouin from the formal economy forced them into black markets, including transnational crime rings, as the only available economic avenue.
Mubarak's centralized policy of exclusion and the growth of black market activities in the Sinai, in particular smuggling of drugs, guns and, later, people,17 further hardened the boundaries between the government and the Bedouin population. However, while there was growth in these underground activities throughout the 1990s, tribal leaders in the Sinai maintained general control over their populations; there was no radical or jihadi cast to their activities.18 It was not until the 2000s that there was growth in radical and jihadi sentiment among the Bedouin population. In particular, much of the young male population began to subscribe to the radical rhetoric introduced by outside parties,19 particularly Salafi "migrants" to the Sinai.
This radicalization manifested itself on a global scale with the 2004, 2005 and 2006 bombings at resorts on the Red Sea, resulting in 130 deaths.20 The attacks were blamed on Palestinian militants with links to the Bedouin population of the Sinai.21 There are inherent difficulties in identifying with certainty the groups that conducted these terrorist attacks. This is due in large part to the manner in which the investigations were conducted, but also because of the fluid nature and structure of these groups and, in particular, the manner in which they name themselves.22
A variety of reports attribute the attacks to different groups; however, most agree that there is a connection between these groups and al-Qaeda, a claim that the Egyptian investigation and report did not corroborate.23 Following the bombings, there were mass arrests of Bedouin in the Sinai, including one large-scale operation that rounded up 3,000 "suspected" Bedouin.24 By targeting the whole Bedouin population in their efforts to quell extremist attacks in the Sinai, Egyptian security forces played a substantial role in bringing the two unlikely allies together. Similar to the amalgamation of the Tuareg separatist rebellion in Mali with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) in a bid to attain territorial independence,25 Bedouin tribal interests became conflated with those of the burgeoning extremist groups in the Sinai. This was a pivotal point for the creation of today's instability. Had the Egyptian government brought the Bedouin into central-state security policy, notably by leading infrastructural development (in particular, of basic services) and by extending the opportunity to the Bedouin population to serve in the state security apparatus, it is possible that the Bedouins themselves would have mitigated the growth of these extremist elements through internal processes.
THE GAZA STRIP
There is a rich history between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. There have always been significant personal ties between these populations, through the Bedouin population and also through the artificial nature of the creation of the Gaza Strip. The earlier Gaza governorate did not neatly end at the southern city of Rafah, now actually split between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.26 As such, the artificial imposition of boundaries in 1948-49 divided a population that did not see itself as belonging to two different nation-states. This artificial division meant that there were already established familial and other networks in place by which to circumvent the enforced political border. In earlier decades this was manifested in various forms, usually through the covert crossing of borders largely above ground. However, following the start of the second Intifada and the subsequent election of and take-over by Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2007, the entry and exit points became more and more shut off by larger and larger concrete fences around the territory.27 Since 2007, the Rafah crossing point has been one of the two legal points of entry and exit from the Gaza Strip. More moderate policies under Mubarak and Morsi allowed for certain types of movement between the two territories — later replaced by the Sisi regime with a complete ban on movement. This has forced even more crossing activity underground, literally, through a tunnel system between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai. Understanding the place of the Sinai in accessing Gaza is also important to grasping how the Sinai situation threatens the peace between Israel and Egypt, as well as why the current regime is taking many of its present actions.
The blockade of Gaza reinforced and expanded the use and prevalence of underground tunnels — a mutually beneficial endeavor for both the Bedouin of the Sinai and for Hamas. It created a thriving economy in north Sinai and allowed Hamas to profit from taxes charged on the goods imported through the tunnel system.28 The system was not supported by Mubarak, portrayed in Gaza as a traitor to the Palestinian cause for not throwing open the Rafah crossings when Hamas took over.29 The targeting of Hamas by the Mubarak regime stems from a plethora of reasons; however, in not supporting Hamas and the Gaza Strip, Mubarak in fact strengthened the resolve of the north Sinai population to go against state policies and support Gaza.30 This was not wholly idealistic: economics as well as the personal and familial relationships between the two populations were key to the support for this system.
As Hamas became entrenched in power in Gaza, it sought to both legitimize and consolidate its rule. Its primary challengers were other indigenous Palestinian resistance groups, such as Islamic Jihad and Jaysh al-Islam,31 and the Salafi groups that had moved from the Sinai into the Gaza Strip. Upon initially taking control of Gaza, Hamas felt that working with these other groups buoyed its Islamist credentials and ideology. However, as the reality of the requirements of day-to-day governing became clear, there was a realization among some within the political wing of Hamas that it was necessary to curtail the activities of some of these groups if Hamas's authority were not to be threatened. This meant targeting the Salafi influx from the south. Large-scale assaults on Salafi mosques, including one in August 2009,32 as well as expulsions of controversial individuals from the Gaza Strip, dramatically increased the number of Salafis living and operating in north Sinai.
Hamas's search for legitimacy was reinforced during the brief rule of Mohammed Morsi, from June 2012 to July 2013. During this time, there were instances of intelligence sharing between Hamas and Egyptian security forces in north Sinai,33 and coordinated targeting of specific groups and individuals who threated the status quo in Gaza. One such example focuses on the reports surrounding the aftermath of the August 5, 2012, attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards. Following this incident, it was reported that Hamas had worked in coordination with the Egyptian authorities to both round up persons of interest in the Gaza Strip and hand them over to the Egyptian authorities, while also incarcerating several other members of organizations thought to be affiliated with the attack.34 These Salafi elements became a breaking point between the Bedouin population in the Sinai and Hamas. As such, it is important to address who these groups are, how they came to be in the Sinai, and their role in the continuing instability.
It is difficult to provide a complete accounting of all Salafi-jihadi groups currently and formerly active in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip.35 However, there is a variety of information from newspapers, personal sources and interviews, and other published reports that piece together dossiers of the major groups operating in the Sinai.36 The two pillars of Salafi-jihadism in the Gaza Strip are Jaysh al-Islam, of the Doghmush clan, and Jund Ansar Allah. Following the August 2009 crackdown, Jund Ansar Allah has all but ceased to exist. Jaysh al-Islam inhabits a unique space, where it is classified as a Salafi-jihadi group, but because of its affiliation with the local Doghmush clan, a prominent if thuggish entity, it has been afforded more leniency than any of the groups imported into the Gaza Strip. Many of the Salafi-jihadi groups that are active in both Gaza and Sinai rise and wane in significance, often attracting too much attention following large-scale attacks — which subsequently brings about their own destruction.
The contributing causes for the influx of Salafi-jihadis to the Sinai are political, historical and geographic. The alienation of the Bedouin in the Sinai by the central government made them open to receiving other "political dissidents" targeted by the central Egyptian security forces. During the Mubarak years, many Salafi thinkers and preachers from the Nile delta moved into the north Sinai.37 After the ascension of Hamas to power in Gaza, this internal movement of political dissidents increased for a variety of reasons, prominent among them the desire of these groups to challenge Hamas's rule in Gaza. Many felt that the Hamas ideology had been tarnished following its rise to power and the attendant need to navigate the demands of ruling. In fact, this was a concern shared by many in the militant wings of Hamas (al-Qassam Brigades), which saw significant numbers of their members recruited into the Salafi-jihadi ideology.
Similarly, the mountainous terrain of north Sinai and the lack of sophisticated military matériel in the governorate made it the perfect place to hide out. By and large, the Salafi groups that did find a base in the Sinai tended towards a platform of jihadism as a mechanism for achieving their goals. This tendency was influenced by a variety of factors, including easy access to weapons due to the large-scale smuggling already well established in the Sinai at this time. Additionally, the anti-government rhetoric prominent in the marginalized Bedouin community of the Sinai and the potential for violent attacks against Israel from Egyptian territory38 were significant elements in the growth of jihadi sentiment. These arguments are widely supported, but from here the information available is largely from news reports, statements by the groups and individuals involved in these activities, and an analysis of network linkages.
THE SALAFI-jihadi GROUPS
According to a variety of — primarily Israeli — news reports, the number of active Salafi-jihadi groups in the Sinai runs to just over a baker's dozen.39 However, as in Gaza, there are two primary Salafi-jihadi groups, and their influence is similar. Four core groups bear scrutiny: Jaysh al-Islam, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Tawhid wal-Jihad and Takfir wal-Hijra. These four groups deserve attention for their links to Gaza and the Gulf, their records of terrorist attacks and their ideologies. These elements not only put these groups at odds with the secular military government in Egypt, but also often with Hamas.40
Jaysh al-Islam is the Gaza-born and -based Salafi-jihadi group run by the Doghmush clan, making it the only "indigenous" Salafi group within this list. Salafi-jihadi groups only became active in Gaza following the Israeli withdrawal from settlements there in 2005, the impetus for instability following the 2006 election of Hamas and the subsequent factional violence in the summer of 2007. Prior to these three events, the Doghmush clan had held a significant position within the Gaza Strip, albeit more for criminal endeavors than for religiously motivated activities. Following the formation of Jaysh al-Islam in 2006, the Doughmoush clan cooperated with Hamas to kidnap the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.41 This successful kidnapping led the clan to undertake additional such plots, in particular of journalists, in subsequent months.
These later kidnapping plots were the sole imperative of Jaysh al-Islam undertaken (without Hamas involvement), not for ideological purposes, but to garner monetary rewards through ransom. The cooperation between Jaysh al-Islam and Hamas has been troubled over the years, with the two groups at times working in tandem42 and at other times in counterpoint.43 The two entities appear to have reached a balance: the Doghmush clan is allowed to operate with some freedom within Gaza, provided that they do not operate counter to Hamas's interests there. The group has not claimed responsibility for any attacks in the Sinai, although various Egyptian and Israeli governmental representatives have alleged such connections.44 While Jaysh al-Islam has indicated an interest in linking itself with al-Qaeda, that group never indicated an interest in "joining forces," nor has Jaysh al-Islam indicated an interest in allying itself with ISIS.45 Primarily, the group maintains connections to the Sinai and other Salafi-jihadi groups through weapons (and other) smuggling endeavors for monetary gain.46
The second group of importance is Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis;47 however, to understand the history and place of this group in this Salafi-jihadi hierarchy in the Sinai and Gaza, it is essential to also examine Tawhid wal-Jihad. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is a newly recognized group, its official formation having occurred sometime in early 2011.48 Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is not credited with, nor has it claimed credit for, undertaking any attacks in the Gaza Strip. Rather, its attacks have targeted the Egyptian state in the Sinai and its infrastructure in a variety of guises — gas pipelines,49 Egyptian police50 and tourists (in particular Israelis)51 — and, for a period, targets in Israel.52 What is important to note is that Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis had significant public ties with Tawhid wal-Jihad, the organization credited with the 2006 bombings of resorts in Dahab — discussed earlier — including a vow of retribution for the death of Tawhid wal-Jihad's leader in 2012.53 Tawhid wal-Jihad has more significant ties to Gaza, including apparently training with Hamas's armed wing, the al Qassam Brigades54 — the group was founded in the late 1990s by two men from Al-Arish in the Sinai.
As such, it is important to understand Tawhid wal-Jihad as a Sinai-based and -created organization, rather than an import from the occupied Palestinian territory into the Sinai. However, following the 2011 kidnapping and subsequent murder of Italian aid worker Vittorio Arrigoni, Hamas authorities in Gaza all but ejected the group from Gaza.55 There have been subsequent, smaller attacks led by Tawhid wal-Jihad in the Sinai; however, its influence seemed to be waning following the death of its military and political leaders in January 2014.56 While Tawhid wal-Jihad's ideology more directly supported resistance against Israel in pursuit of an independent Palestinian state, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has not displayed significant interest in the Palestinian cause. Although happy to target Israel, with the seizure of power in 2012 by the Egyptian military, the organization became more interested in targeting the Egyptian government. This, in turn, has led Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to pledge baya to the Islamic State, in November 2014 becoming Wilayat Sinai.57 This affiliation with a global jihadi movement has further distanced Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis from the Palestinian cause.
The fourth group of interest is Takfir wal-Hijra, a group with a history in Egypt. The first Takfir wal-Hijra was founded in the early 1970s by Shukri Mostafa, who was radicalized while imprisoned in Egypt. Following Mostafa's execution in 1977, however, the lineage of the group was largely lost. It was only in 2011, following the ousting of the Mubarak regime, that a new group claiming the same name emerged. Links between the two groups are not certain, with some analysis claiming that the newer iteration is a continuation of the group founded in the 1970s, and other views pointing to a lack of substantial ties between the two.58 Significantly, Takfir wal-Hijra has no serious connections to Gaza, and the majority of the attacks with which the group is credited have been carried out in the Sinai against Egyptian military and police.59
It is important to note that there are limited leadership connections among these four Salafi-jihadi groups and the Hamas establishment in Gaza. Rather, many of these groups have flourished in the Sinai only because of their opposition to Hamas and the subsequent imprisonment and expulsion of their members from the Gaza Strip. There are, however, significant ties with individual members, in particular of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the militant wing of Hamas. These ties are also linked to issues related to the internal cohesion of Hamas and the rift between the militant and political wings of the organization.60 The exception to this norm is Jaysh al-Islam. As the only locally founded group, its place and significance in the Gaza Strip is linked more to the prominence of the Doghmush clan and the general criminal orientation of their activities.
Much of the leadership of those Salafi-jihadi groups active in the Sinai received their training at the hands of senior figures from groups such as al-Qaeda.61 As earlier established, the Bedouin population of the Sinai is tied more closely, historically and culturally, to the Gulf area, rather than to Egypt and North Africa. The initial influx of Salafis, predominantly from the Gulf, to the Sinai in the latter 1990s and early 2000s, was supported by this local perspective. Many of these individuals traveled to Egypt for various reasons, one of which was to challenge the hegemony of the Muslim Brotherhood as the Islamist party of Egypt — and after 2007, to challenge Hamas (an offshoot of the Brotherhood).62 The so-called Arab Spring and its wake were the impetus for the large-scale movement of these Salafi-jihadists, both to and through the Sinai, along with weapons, particularly in the wake of the fall of Muammar Qadhafi.63 The ouster of Mubarak and subsequent election of the Muslim Brotherhood government were seen by many groups in the Sinai as signs that it was time to take action against Israel, in particular. The non-engagement of Morsi in the Sinai allowed these groups to flourish and initiate attacks against Israel from Egyptian territory, threatening the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Following the seizure of power by the military, many of these groups turned their focus inward, targeting the Egyptian government rather than Israel.64
Another popular argument is that the radicalization of the Sinai was based on efforts undertaken by Hamas65 to generate jihadi ideas and radicalize the population in order to instigate attacks against Israel. This argument, while in many ways compelling, is ultimately flawed. The Salafi-jihadist element presents a real threat to Hamas's power, in both Gaza and the Sinai. Hamas, as a group, has no political interest to gain in working with these Salafi-jihadi groups and has frequently worked against their efforts. While there is support by individual Hamas members, particularly within the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas as a general policy does not seek to strengthen these groups so close to their own doorstep.
With the ascension of General Sisi to power in Egypt in mid-2013, there was a complete about-face in policy towards both the Sinai and Gaza. Instead of absent-minded attempts at engagement, there was an articulated policy of reliance on military forces to attempt to remove Salafi and jihadi strongholds in the Sinai, while shutting down access between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai.66 This strong military presence and investment has calmed tensions and increased cooperation between Israel and Egypt; however, Israel maintains strong and coercive informant networks throughout the north Sinai.67 On a domestic Egyptian level, the continued defiance of groups in the Sinai against the central Egyptian government has proven to be a strong motivator for other dissident action in the Nile Delta.68 Similarly, the complete cut-off of relations with Hamas in the Gaza Strip has not served the current Egyptian administration well. It has created rifts within the government but, more important, damaged the public image of its government's support for Palestine.
Is the collapse of the Sinai imminent? No. Will Egypt and Israel go to war tomorrow? No. However, without careful attention and intelligent action, neither scenario is completely outside of the realm of possibility. The most important ways to secure the situation involve the economic stabilization and integration of the Sinai into the Egyptian state and the normalization of relations with Gaza. Bringing the Bedouin population into government services and jobs would address many of their grievances. Additional efforts to recognize the historical contributions of the Bedouins as part of Egyptian culture — through local and national exhibits and events — might also be an important step in showing them that they have a recognized and celebrated place in Egypt. While firm action against the smuggling networks should take place, extended air campaigns and wholesale military attacks against this population are not the solution, nor have they been for the 20 years that they have been practiced. Egyptian engagement with Hamas will make that group a stakeholder in ensuring that further radicalization neither takes place in Gaza nor is exported there. While this approach will complicate Egypt's relationship with Israel, it is necessary in order to secure the Sinai and curtail further radicalization of the population.
1 Zachary Laub, "Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Security," Council for Foreign Relations, December 12, 2013, http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egypts-sinai-peninsula-security/p32055.
2 Nicolas Pelham, "Sinai: The Buffer Erodes," The Royal Institute of International Affairs, September 2012: 1.
3 "Egypt's Sinai Question," International Crisis Group, Middle East/North Africa Report No. 61, January 20, 2007: 14. Much of this information is gleaned more from linguistic studies of the Bedouin dialects than overt political or ethnographic studies; by and large, the Bedouin population of the Sinai has not been studied. For tribal information based on these linguistic studies, see Rudolf De Jong, A Grammar of the Bedouin Dialects of the Northern Sinai Littoral: Bridging the Linguistic Gap Between the Eastern and Western Arab World (Brill, 2000) and Clinton Bailey, Bedouin Poetry, from Sinai and the Neguev (2002).
4 "Egypt's Sinai Question," 14.
5 Ibid., 22.
6 Ibid., 19-20
7 In particular, this played out through an anecdote from the ICG report on pages 19-20, recounting the story of an EU-funded project to build the Bedouin Heritage Museum and Research Center in El Arish in 1994. This museum was then threatened in 2003 when central Egyptian authorities decided to build a museum of Egyptian history, celebrating the Pharaonic heritage of the Sinai and trying to tie the Sinai more to the central Egyptian historical narrative. The new Pharaonic museum threatened to close the Bedouin Heritage Museum and did not include any space for local history, or for the tradecrafts that were sold at the Bedouin Heritage Museum, one of the primary venues for the sale of such Bedouin products in the area. This anecdote was reported in the ICG report and subsequently received much attention by Egyptian and Israeli newspapers, particularly Al Ahram and Haaretz, which were highly critical of the manner in which the incident was portrayed in the report, stating that the report's depiction of events encourage European governments and agencies to attempt to influence how the history and culture of the Sinai was presented.
8 Seth J. Frantzman and Ruth Kark, "Bedouin Settlement in Late Ottoman and British Mandatory Palestine: Influence on the Cultural and Environmental Landscape, 1870-1948," New Middle Eastern Studies 1 (2011); in particular pp. 4-9 for information on the Ottoman Empire's policies towards the Bedouin and pp.13-17 for the British Mandatory policies.
9 Motti Golani and Adel Manna, Two Sides of the Coin: Independence and Nakba, 1948 (Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation and Republic of Letters Publishing: 2011), 117.
10 "Egypt's Sinai Question," 10-11; Egyptian governmental policy dating back to the Nasser regime dictated that no permanent Palestinian refugee camps could be established in Egypt, nor that displaced Palestinians could become Egyptian citizens or receive the benefits of Egyptian citizenship, due to the belief that offering such options would disincentivize the resolution of the question of an independent Palestinian state.
11 Gabi Siboni and Ram Ben-Barak, "The Sinai Peninsula Threat Development and Response Concept," The Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings and The Institute for National Security Studies, Analysis Paper 31, January 2014: 3.
12 In particular, Annex I, Article II of the peace treaty discusses the division of the Sinai into four zones, A-D, and lists the exact type of quantity of forces and materiel that can be stationed in each of the zones. Zone C, which stretches from the international border to Sharm Al-Shaykh in the south, allows only for the presence of the United Nations Emergency Force and Egyptian Civil Police, armed only with light weapons; Peace Treaty Between Egypt and Israel, March 26, 1979, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/israel-egypt%….
13 Pelham, 2.
14 "Egypt's Sinai Question," 11; and "South Sinai Demographics and Population Projections," Working Paper, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, SEAM Programme, 2003: 3. http://st-katherine.net/downloads/Demographics%20&%20Population.pdf.
15 Pelham, 3-4.
17 Including many sub-Saharan refugees and migrants trying to gain access to Israel and, more recently, many Syrian refugees moving south-east to Libya for attempts to migrate to Europe.
18 Some of these tribal leaders were appointed by the central government as a means to exert further control over the population.
19 "Egypt's Sinai Question," 22; Sibani and Ben-Barak, 3; and Pelham, 4 — although all three reports attribute the rise in this jihadi sentiment to different sources, which will be discussed in greater detail later in this paper.
20 Pelham, 4.
21 "Egypt's Sinai Question," 1; Sibani and Ben-Barak, 4; and Pelham 4, although none of the reports agree on the veracity or degree of these claims.
22 As an example, ICG's report "Egypt's Sinai Question" provides insight into how the Egyptian authorities carried out investigations into the perpetrators of the 2006 bombings, and some of the concerns related to how these investigations were undertaken, in particular on pp. 2-4.
23 Some reports indicate that the 2004 and 2005 attacks were carried out by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and other reports state that all three attacks were carried out by Tawid wal-Jihad. It is not surprising that the Egyptian government's report did not find ties to al-Qaeda, given that they did not want to glamorize involvement with these groups. The allegations of al-Qaeda involvement were particularly prominent amongst Israeli news media, but were downplayed by some analysts due to the large number of Egyptian casualties.
24 "Egypt's Sinai Question," 1; Pelham 4; and Sibani and Ben-Barak, 4.
25 Stephan A. Emerson, "Desert Insurgency: Lessons from the Third Tuareg Rebellion," Small Wars and Insurgencies 22 (2011): 672-3; May Ying Welsh, "Making Sense of Mali's Armed Groups," Al Jazeera, January 17, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/01/20131139522812326.html; and "Mali Crisis: Key Players," BBC, March 12, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17582909.
26 "Corrigendum to Cablegram Dated February 23, 1949, from the Acting Mediator to the Secretary-General Transmitting the Text of an Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel," S/1246/Corr.1, February 23, 1949, http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/9EC4A332E2FF9A128525643D007702E6. See Article VI.
27 "The Closure of the Gaza Strip: The Economic and Humanitarian Consequences," OCHA Special Focus Reports on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, December 2007, http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/9EC4A332E2FF9A128525643D007702E6. There are three additional OCHA Special Focus reports dating through 2010. In addition, there are OCHA issued monthly Humanitarian Bulletins that detail the increased closure regime and a series of Fact Sheets that detail the blockade, dating from 2007 until the present.
28 "Light at the End of Their Tunnels? Hamas and the Arab Uprisings," International Crisis Group, Middle East/North Africa Report No. 129, August 14, 2012: 14.
29 "Light at the End of their Tunnels," 3-4, 6.
30 This is discussed in Zachary Laub's report, "Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Security."
31 Jaysh al-Islam here refers to the semi-political groups formed by the Doghmush clan in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. Neither group was ever viewed as a serious challenger to replace Hamas; however, as Hamas has come to be perceived as too "mainstream," these two groups have been the most serious challengers to Hamas' authenticity and ability to ensure stability in Gaza.
32 On August 11, 2009, the spiritual leader of Jund Ansar Allah, Sheikh Abd-al Latif Musa denounced Hamas and its leadership during Friday prayers at Ibn Taymiyya Mosque. This denouncement came following repeated requests by Hamas leadership to cancel this segment of the sermon. Following the public denouncement, the group closeted themselves in the mosque and refused to leave, allegedly shooting a Hamas Internal Security member who attempted to negotiate with them. Following this death, a battle broke out between those in the mosque and the Hamas security forces outside. By the end of it 28 people were dead, including Musa and Khalid Banat, the military leaders. For more details, see pp. 11-13.
33 Pelham, 12.
34 Khaled Abu Toameh, "Hamas Helps Egypt in Hunt for Sinai Terrorists," Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2012: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Hamas-helps-Egypt-in-hunt-for-Sinai-te….
35 Due to close ties between the two territorial entities, and the large-scale flouting of the political border between them, it is important to discuss the groups active in both areas in tandem.
36 Much of this section is supplemented from the knowledge I gained while working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip between 2007-2009. Even with this personal insight and knowledge, largely based on daily security briefings and reports, it is often difficult to concretely attribute significant actions to one group or individual. Many of these groups are of a fluid nature, with fluctuating names and affiliations, both local and regional.
37 In particular during the late 1990s and early 2000s, see Pelham, 14-15.
38 These include attacks undertaken in pursuit of an independent Palestine on the assumption that it is more difficult for Israel to retaliate against another sovereign state (Egypt) than against the territories. While this was somewhat true during the Mubarak and Morsi regimes, the current relationship between al-Sisi's regime and Israel challenges this assertion.
39 Barak Ravid, "Shin Beit Forms New Unit to Thwart Attacks on Israel by Sinai Jihadists," Haaretz, August 20, 2013: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.542417.
40 It is important here to also note that this — by extensions — implies that these groups are at odds with Muslim Brotherhood ideology, Hamas being an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
41 The two groups succeeded in doing so with the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit on June 25, 2006. See Tim Butcher, "Soldier Kidnapped and Two Killed in Gaza Tunnel Attack," Telegraph, June 26, 2006, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/1522370/Sol….
42 Such as during the kidnapping of Cpl. Shalit and at times to ensure no rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel.
43 Including violent confrontations between the two groups in 2007, following the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnson; in September 2008 and in the summer of 2011.
44 "Egypt Blames Gaza Group for Bombing," Al Jazeera, January 23, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/01/201112311414915283.html; and Gianluca Mezzofiore, "Israel's Secret Service Shin Bet Sets up Anti-Jihadist Unit," International Business Times, August 20, 2013, http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/130820-israel-se….
45 "Radical Islam in Gaza," 10-11.
46 These smuggling activities form the majority of the income for the group, lending a distinctly criminal, rather than ideological, aspect to the group. While the firing of rockets into Israel indicates an ideological basis, this is more the core of any Palestinian resistance activity than particularly Salafi-jihadi oriented.
47 Also known as Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, or JAMB.
48 "Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis," Profiles: Background, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, http://timep.org/esw/profiles/terror-groups/ansar-bayt-al-maqdis/.
49 "Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis Responsible for Friday Gas Pipeline Blast," Egypt Independent, January 19, 2014, http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/ansar-bayt-al-maqdis-responsible-f….
50 Abigail Hauslohner and Erin Cunningham, "In Egypt, Jihadist Group Bayt al-Maqdis Claims Responsibility for Bombing," Washington Post, October 21, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-egypt-jihadist-group-bayt-al-maq….
51 Asma Alsharif and Ali Abdelatty, "Sinai-Based Militants Claim Responsibility for Tourist Bus Blast in Egypt," Reuters, February 17, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/18/us-egypt-attack-idUSBREA1G1HJ….
52 "Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis" Profile, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
53 It's also important to note the connections between these two groups and Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in the environs of Jerusalem, also linked through these leaders. MSC is another group identified in many Israeli intelligence documents as one of the significant groups in Sinai. However, there are almost no concrete attacks in Sinai linked to MSC.
54 "Tawhid Wal-Jihad," Profiles: Background, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, http://timep.org/esw/profiles/terror-groups/tawhid-wal-jihad/.
55 Maya Schwayder, "Hamas Court Convicts Four Palestinians in Murder of Italian Activist," International Business Times, September 17, 2012, http://www.ibtimes.com/hamas-court-convicts-four-palestinians-murder-it….
56 "Egyptian Army Kills Military Commander of Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad in Sinai," Ahram Online, January 19, 2014, http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/91920.aspx.
57 Nelly Lahoud, "The Province of Sinai: Why Bother with Palestine If You Can be Part of the 'Islamic State?'" CTC Sentinel 8, no. 3 (2015): 12-14, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CTCSentinel-Vol8….
58 Conflicting opinions from different academic and media groups finding a link: Alex Fishman, "Tracking Sources of Sinai Terror, All Roads Lead to Gaza," Al-Monitor, August 13, 2012, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/iw/security/01/08/the-sinai-war.html; and those not: "Takfir wal-Hijra," Profiles: Background, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy: http://timep.org/esw/profiles/terror-groups/takfir-wal-hijra/.
59 "Takfir wal-Hijra," Profiles, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
60 "A Politicized Hamas and Its Jihadist Rivals in Gaza," Stratfor, January 19, 2011, https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/politicized-hamas-and-its-jihadist-ri….
61 Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, "Officials: Egypt to Target al-Qaeda Cells Said to be Training in Sinai," CNN, August 12, 2011, http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/08/12/egypt.al.qaeda.operation/ind….
62 Many of those members active in the al Qassam Brigades, as well as other militant organizations active in Gaza, viewed Hamas as too moderate upon is assumption or power. Other groups believed that Hamas' participation in the 2006 PLC elections amounted to tacit recognition of the 1994 Oslo Accords, which amounted to a loss of legitimacy and credibility for Hamas as a national resistance movement.
63 Pelham, 4, 6, 11.
64 See Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy reports on Takfir wal-Hijra, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdi, and Tawhid wal-Jihad. News reports cited above also show the predominant targeting of targets in Egypt, in particular following the ousting of the Morsi regime in Cairo.
65 See, for example, Giboni and Ben-Barak's analysis paper cited here. Many prominent conservative and Israel-based research organizations are prominent advocates of this position.
66 Diverse sources take different perspectives on the veracity and effectiveness of this approach; for different opinions on this, see Gilad Wenig, "A New Era for Egypt's Military," The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, March 12, 2015, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/a-new-era-for-e…; Nadine Marroushi, "Dark Clouds over the Sinai," Slate, October 7, 2013, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2013/10/abde…; Tom Stevenson, "Egypt's Sinai Militants Strain President Sisi's Position in U.S., Israel with Deadliest Attack in a Decade," International Business Times, November 1, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/egypts-sinai-militants-strain-president-sisis-po…; and Amr Khalifa, "Sisi: Sinking Sinai," Daily News Egypt, February 1, 2015, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/02/01/sisi-sinking-sinai/.
67 There is also the lingering sense that an Israeli offensive in the Sinai — particularly following any attack on Israel — is not out of the question. See "How Israel Spies on Sinai," Al-Monitor, September 23, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/egypt-sinai-israel-mo….
68 In particular the activities of Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt. See Safaa Saleh, "Terrorism Expands from Sinai to Cairo," Al-Monitor, April 16, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/04/egypt-terrorism-shift…; and Yasmine Saleh and Shadia Nasralla, "Suicide Car Bomb Kills 15 at Egyptian Police Compound," Reuters, December 24, 2013, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/12/24/uk-egypt-explosion-idUKBRE9BM0….