Rise in Sinai insurgency attacks tied to Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza Strip

Special to WorldTribune.com

TEL AVIV — A leading Israeli strategist has linked the Islamist
insurgency in Egypt to the withdrawal from the Gaza
Strip in 2005.

Ehud Yaari, the strategist, said the insurgency presence in Egypt’s
Sinai Peninsula stemmed from Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Yaari,
regarded as close to the Israeli intelligence community, said Palestinian
militias and Al Qaida have taken over vast areas of Sinai and integrated
with the economy of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The Aug. 5 attack on an Egyptian military post and cross-border incursion was the largest attack carried out in Sinai by global jihad operatives against both Egyptian and Israeli targets.

“We can lie to ourselves a thousand times why this happened,” Yaari, a commentator on Arab affairs on Israel’s state media, said. “I can tell you why it happened because I hear it from the Bedouin themselves. It happened because of the disengagement of 2005.”

In an interview with Israel state radio on Aug. 7, Yaari addressed the
Islamist attack on the Egyptian Army along the Sinai-Israel border. At least 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed in an Aug. 5 operation that included the hijacking of two armored personnel carriers.

Yaari was one of the first leading Israeli analysts to warn of the
transformation of Sinai into a launching pad for attacks on the Jewish
state. He said the Sinai economy was based on the massive smuggling of weapons and fuel to the Gaza Strip.

“We see these people who were never close to Islam and fanatacism and some of them underwent a transformation,” Yaari said.

Yaari, author of a study on Bedouin tribes in 2012, quoted a prominent
Bedouin intellectual Ashaf Hanani. Hanani was quoted as saying that the Gaza
Strip took over the economy of Sinai through the massive smuggling industry,
facilitated by 1,200 tunnels that link the two areas.

“A fireball rolled from Gaza to Egypt,” Yaari quoted Hanani as saying.
“First northeast Sinai integrated into the Gaza economy via the smuggling
and tunnel industry. The second thing. The flow and influence of Hamas and
Salafi ideology from Gaza to tribes in Sinai. This is what happened.”

In 2005, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expelled some 18,000 Jews from
the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. Weeks after the unilateral
withdrawal, Hamas and Palestinian militias rained hundreds of missiles and
mortars on communities in southern Israel. Days later, Sharon collapsed of a
massive stroke and fell into a coma where he remains until today.

Another leading Israeli defense analyst, Alex Fishman, said Egypt would
not destroy the insurgency network in Sinai. Fishman said the current
Egyptian military operation in Sinai was a “political show” and urged
Israeli consultations with the United States to ensure that Cairo honors the
agreement to demilitarize much of the peninsula.

“There will be no substantive change in Sinai until there is a change in
the national order of priorities, replete with investment in this remote and
neglected province,” Fishman said. “The Bedouin rebellion — which has led
to religious extremism, violence and anarchy — is the product of poverty,
unemployment, and mainly injured pride.”

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