The security situation in Sinai and along the Egypt-Israel frontier is rapidly going from bad to worse. The Islamist coalition’s war on Egyptian police and military positions has gone far beyond the isolated strikes here and there reported by official spokesmen, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.
Hundreds of Salafist Bedouin, Muslim Brotherhood adherents and Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters from the Gaza Strip have joined forces to block northern Sinai’s key road arteries. They have stopped traffic to the Egyptian-Israeli border terminal at Nitzana, to the US-led multinational national observer base at Al Gora near El Arish, and to the big cement factory built by the Egyptian military in El Arish which is the region’s main source of employment.
The Egyptian army is sending a steady flow of reinforcements to the area, with Israel's consent. An armored force of 13 tanks reached northern Sinai Wednesday July 17, to bolster the Egyptian Second Army force, headed by Gen. Ahmed Wafasi.
Egyptian officials, asked when their counter-terror offensive in Sinai would start, answer that it will go ahead only after intelligence-gathering and preparations are complete. Meanwhile, all the Egyptian army appears to be doing is sending Apache gun ships out on surveillance missions from El Arish airport which has been converted into an air base.
Because the Egyptians have so far kept to a war of passive defense against the Islamists rampant in Sinai, DEBKAfile’s military sources expect those terrorist groups to soon start moving out toward the Suez Canal and the main cities of Egypt. They also predict attempts to infiltrate Israel for launching a major attack on a civilian or military target.