Egypt needs to do more to crack down on Islamist violence and attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, a top Israeli lawmaker said this week as Egyptian security officials warned that Salafist terrorists are preparing to conduct car bomb attacks in the Sinai using Egyptian government vehicles.
“Sinai has become lawless territory,” Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Thursday. “It’s a question of Egypt deciding to assert its sovereignty the way it should and acting resolutely against terrorists. I hope that’s what will happen. It hasn’t happened yet.”
Terrorists active in the Sinai Peninsula, taking advantage of the four-day Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, plan to target tourists and resorts in the area. An Egyptian security official reported that "A number of cars have been stolen recently. One of them belongs to the governor of the north Sinai district, and another belongs to the district's national security advisor."
The region, which has grown increasingly lawless in the aftermath of the Egyptian Arab Spring that saw the overthrow of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, has witnessed terrorist attacks on both Egyptian and Israeli civilians and targets.
Terrorist elements, largely backed by Iran, have dug a labyrinth of tunnels underneath the border between the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, which are often used to smuggle goods as well as crude and advanced weaponry.
The official but chilly peace that exists between Israel and Egypt also has been called into question by some Brotherhood officials who have been outspoken in their desire to modify the treaty in areas such as troop and equipment deployments in the Sinai.
The Arab Spring has also empowered hardline elements who have called for the modification or eradication of Egypt’s ling-standing peace treaty with Israel. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked president, Mohammed Morsi, has himself suggested in numerous interviews that the context of the treaty needs to be revaluated.
Last week, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood elected Saad al-Katani as its new leader, filling a slot left open when Morsi formally resigned from the group in order to assume office. The vote was considered a relative victory for hardliners in the Muslim Brotherhood, with Katani defeating the more moderate Essam el-Erian for the position and declaring that he seeks to "implement righteous rule based on Islamic sharia laws."
The election came in the aftermath of the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme leader, Mohammed Badie, being quoted to the effect that "Jews have increased the corruption in the world, and shed the blood of (Muslims)."
Jewish groups charged with monitoring anti-Jewish hatred have raised alarm bells over the speech and other explicitly anti-Semitic incitement at the highest levels of the Muslim Brotherhood. A new video showing Morsi's participation in a prayer calling for the destruction and dispersal of Jews is likely to heighten those concerns.