October 15, 2013 | Quote
Dark Clouds Over the Sinai
The black, charcoaled remains of a cow’s dead body lies in a sandy field behind a shelled-out mansion. Washed-out blood stains the walls of an unpainted grey room where sons say their 80-year-old mother was killed by army tank fire. Bullet holes pockmark the house. A 9-year-old girl’s cheek is marked by a pink incision where a rock hit her face as her home was strafed by helicopter fire. A child’s sandal and burned Quran were among the rubble of a mosque that locals say was destroyed by ground and air military troops. I watched as an IED exploded under an armored personnel carrier as it turned a corner. Black smoke filled the air, and an olive tree was uprooted. Later, two soldiers were reported injured.
These are some of the casualties of the Egyptian army’s war on “terrorists” in the villages and towns that dot the north of the Sinai Peninsula close to the borders of Gaza and Israel.
In September, the military stepped up a two-month campaign to rid the area of militants by “taking action against terrorists, instead of merely reacting to terrorist attacks,” said army spokesman Ahmed Ali.
The prevailing mood is one of fear. People are too scared to work with the army, because they risk assassination by militant groups, and they are too afraid to take up arms against a well-armored military, many said.
In an Oct. 4 statement, the al-Salafiyya al-Jihadiyya, a jihadist group in Sinai, threatened to kill anyone found aiding Egyptian security forces. “The treacherous agent will only get the sword,” it said, according to the Long War Journal, a Washington, D.C.-based news and analysis website on terrorism.
While children are filling classroom halls in Cairo, nearly 150 miles away, mothers in North Sinai say they won’t send their children to school as long as the campaign continues. The start of the school term has already been delayed to Oct. 19, because of poor security conditions. “I’m too scared to get school clothes and stationery for my children. I’m scared for the driver and me. There’s no guarantee we won’t get hit,” said Fawziya, a Bedouin mother of four, who asked that her surname not be used.