In a bold announcement Thursday, the Egyptian Army said that it had achieved “total security control” over the entire Sinai peninsula. The announcement came after many months of pitched battles between Egyptian soldiers, armed Bedouin gangs, Islamist groups, and Gaza-based Arab terrorists, all of whom had set up campsites and operations in the lawless desert region, which borders Israel.
According to Mohammed a-Shahat, the Egyptian Army's director of operations in Sinai, “there is now clear stability in Sinai, despite the fact that there are still pockets of terrorists and smuggling tunnels in the north of the peninsula.”
The announcement came after Egyptian soldiers eliminated a terror cell in Sinai earlier Thursday.
Sinai has been the scene of numerous terror attacks over the years, many of them aimed at Israelis and other tourists. In the latest attack last February, a bomb ripped through a tourist bus traveling near the Israeli border, killing three South Korean tourists and their Egyptian driver and wounding 33 others.
In 2011, a Sinai-based terror group carried out an attack on Israelis near Eilat that killed eight people. The leader of the group was Tuwafik Mohammed Frij or "Abu Abdallah," who headed of the Salafist Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terror organization that has claimed responsibility for firing Grad rockets at Eilat.
Frij was the commander responsible for the August 2011 coordinated Eilat attack, which left eight Israelis dead and many more wounded. A squad of terrorists which infiltrated from Sinai first opened fire on bus #392 from Be'er Sheva to Eilat as it neared its destination, injuring seven. Soldiers on board fired back, killing at least two of the terrorists and leaving a third critically injured.
Terrorists then targeted a second Egged bus less than an hour later near Eilat, killing the driver, and then opened fire on other Israeli-driven cars killing five more. An IDF military vehicle was blown up by an explosive planted on the narrow road as it raced to the scene, killing two soldiers.
Sinai terrorists have also blown up gas pipelines in the peninsula numerous times. Gas pipelines in Egypt has been attacked more than a dozen times since the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Some of the attacks targeted a pipeline that supplied gas to Jordan and Israel, forcing Egypt to halt supplies to these two countries. Since that time Israel has begun to become more dependent on its own natural gas, so Egypt's abrupt cancellation of its contract to sell gas to Israel a year ago was, while very expensive for Israelis in the short run, not as damaging as Israelis initially feared in the longer run. Terrorists have also attacked Egyptian military units numerous times.
In March, Israeli officials seized a ship stuffed with arms that had been dispatched from Iran that US officials said may have been meant for terrorists in Sinai. A U.S. official and two non-Israeli regional sources said Israel appeared to be insisting that the ship's destination was Gaza in order to spare the military-backed interim Egyptian administration embarrassment as it struggles to impose order in the Sinai.
"Were the Israelis to say the rockets were going to Sinai, then they would also have had to say who in Sinai was going to receive the rockets," one source told Reuters, adding that such a statement would draw attention to the terrorists in the Sinai.
The IDF conducted the raid of the ship, the Klos C, in the Red Sea several weeks ago, between the waters of Sudan and Eritrea.