August 9, 2013 | Policy Brief

Jihadi Violence in the Sinai Peninsula

August 9, 2013 | Policy Brief

Jihadi Violence in the Sinai Peninsula

By Lauren Schumacher

Five jihadists who were allegedly preparing to fire rockets towards Israel were reportedly killed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula earlier today. It is still not exactly clear how the five were killed, but unidentified Egyptian officials suggested that an Israeli drone was responsible.

Since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi last month, there has been a notable rise in jihadist violence leading to almost daily clashes with Egyptian security personnel in the Sinai. While no group has claimed responsibility for these attacks outright, there are several groups that have deservedly attracted the attention of the Egyptian and Israeli militaries.

One such group is Ansar al Jihad, which is believed to be the military arm of al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula. The group announced its formation in December 2011. Shortly thereafter, Ansar al Jihad, which has since been tied to several gas pipeline attacks and is reportedly linked to a former physician of Osama bin Laden, pledged allegiance (bayat) to al-Qaeda.

Another Salafi jihadi group of concern in the Sinai is Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (Ansar Jerusalem). According to Israeli intelligence, the group has carried out a majority of the attacks in the Sinai, with a penchant for targeting gas pipelines. The jihadist group has also carried out a number of attacks against Israel, most recently a rocket attack on Eilat in early July.

The third key group that poses a threat in this theater is the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs in Jerusalem, a consortium of jihadist groups that has conducted attacks from Gaza as well as the Sinai. The group, which has dedicated its attacks to al-Qaeda and its emir Ayman al Zawahiri, took part in attacks against Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 and were allegedly joined by Sinai-based jihadists.

The jihadi groups of the Sinai have garnered a great deal of recent interest, but they are not new. They are part of a longstanding network that has operated within Egypt and abroad for decades. In the weeks and months ahead, Egyptian and Israeli authorities, despite the many areas of tension and disagreement that likely await them, can be expected to maintain a high-level of coordination to neutralize their common threat.

Lauren Schumacher is an intern at Foundation for Defense of Democracies


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