Sinai Peninsula
Sinai PeninsulaIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Egypt's Interior Ministry has raised the alert level for its security forces in southern Sinai due to a warning over possible jihadist operations in the area.

The ministry warned local police stations and security personnel Tuesday to be alert to potential attacks on tourists in the area by terrorists from the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group.

The organization announced it would seek revenge for the recent targeted assassination by Israel of two of its operatives in Gaza, Abu al Waleed al Maqdisi (Hisham al-Saedini) former emir of the Tawhid wal-Jihad group in Jerusalem, and Ashraf al-Sabah (Abu al-Bara'a al-Maqdisi), former emir of Ansar al Sunnah.

In a statement obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the organization, also known as “Ansar Jerusalem,” said, “We in Ansar Jerusalem say to the Jews that the blood of our brothers in Palestine is our blood and their revenge is ours, and the blood of Abu al-Waleed and Abu al-Bara'a will not go in vain without repayment. It is retaliation and just punishment against your blood and security, so wait for our response and the pain of our revenge.”

The group is also thought to be responsible for numerous attacks over the past year against Israel, including one on September 21, 2012, and on August 18 2011 near Eilat, as well as many rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel, fired from Gaza.

Terror and kidnapping attacks frequently are carried out around holiday times, and against unwary tourists. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said its security measures come as a precaution in advance of the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the celebration of the near-sacrifice of the Biblical Ishmael by the patriarch Abraham. Muslims believe that it was Ishmael, and not his brother Isaac, who was offered as a sacrifice to G-d by Abraham, and who was saved at the last minute by an angel.

Police turned to local Bedouin in deeper valleys in the area who could spot suspicious individuals. according to a report published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, translated by the Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA). They asked for cooperation in identifying potential jihadist activity in the area that might be emanating from northern Sinai.

Although no jihadists have been detected, a security source said information had indeed been received that terrorists planned an attack.
The state of alert was announced in El-Arish three days prior, according to Sinai activist Mohamed al-Tablaoui, who added that Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis' threats should be taken seriously. The group has previously carried out its vows of revenge in the wake of targeted assassinations against its leaders, he said.

Egyptian presidential adviser Mohammed Ismat Seif Al-Dawla on Monday urged his government to amend the peace treaty signed in 1979 with Israel. The Cairo aide claimed that changing the peace treaty is important to help Egypt restore control over the lawless Sinai Peninsula, where terrorists have established training and operational bases from which to carry out attacks against Israel as well as against Egyptian and Jordanian citizens and interests.

Last month Yasser Ali, a spokesman for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi told reporters in New York during the United Nations General Assembly that Egypt has the troops it needs in the Sinai to restore security, and "will continue until success is achieved."