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It started early this week when a “senior Egyptian security official” told the Egyptian-based Al-Hayyat TV channel that over 400 Al-Qaeda members had made their way into the Sinai Peninsula. They were said to be composed of Palestinians, Bedouins, and foreign Arabs, and Egyptian security forces were said to be pursuing them since they were “planning to carry out terror attacks in Egypt.”
The official told Al-Hayyat that they had already carried out “attacks against [Egyptian] security forces in the Sinai city of El Arish.”
The report seemed to gain credence on Monday when Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “Egypt is having a hard time realizing its sovereignty in Sinai. International terror organizations are stirring in Sinai and their presence is increasing due to Sinai’s connection to Gaza.”
Although Netanyahu left it vague, that “due to” can work both ways: terrorists in Sinai, particularly if intent on attacking Israel, can make their way into Gaza, and terrorists in Gaza—especially now that Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing—can make their way into Sinai.
Although it may have gotten a significant boost this week, the problem of Al-Qaeda and other global jihadist forces in Sinai is not new. Last February 5, a gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan was blown up in northern Sinai, and it was blown up again on April 27. The attacks are attributed to local Bedouins, global jihadists, or a collaboration between the two.
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