On Thursday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency or Shabak) released its 2012 Annual Summary: Data and Trends in Terrorism report. In contrast to previous annual reports from the Shin Bet, this year’s includes a section devoted to the Sinai Peninsula. According to the new report, elements of the “global jihad” are using the Sinai as a base to wage terror attacks against Israel.
Of the 10 Israelis killed in 2012 in terror attacks in Israel, two were killed as a result of attacks originating in the Sinai, the report noted. On June 18, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem carried out a cross-border attack, which it said was “a gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri,” that killed one Israeli civilian. On Sept. 21, Ansar Jerusalem carried out an attack that killed one Israeli soldier near the Har Harif area on the border with the Egyptian Sinai.
The report further said that the Sinai continues to be a key space for the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. During 2012, “hundreds” of high quality weaponry, including long-range rockets and advanced antitank and antiaircraft missiles, from Libya and Sudan ended up in Gaza through the Sinai, the report said.
Additionally, the report noted an increase in attacks originating in the Sinai in 2012. Whereas in 2011 only one terror attack came from the Sinai, in 2012 there were 11 such attacks, the majority of which were rocket attacks. Additionally, the report revealed that five attempts by terrorists to infiltrate from the Sinai into Israel were thwarted in 2012.
Since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, a number of Salafi jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda have sprouted up in the Egyptian Sinai. The terror groups have conducted attacks against the Egyptian military and policemen, Israel, international peacekeepers in the Sinai, and a pipeline transporting natural gas to Israel and Jordan.
Israeli intelligence believes that most of the attacks originating in the Sinai have been carried out by Ansar Jerusalem, also known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. According to a recent report, Western officials estimate that at least several hundred jihadists, some of whom are from Yemen and Somalia, are now operating in the Sinai. Egyptian officials have also recently expressed concern that militants from Algeria and Libya are now operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
Over the past month, Egyptian authorities have seized a number of weapons and explosives in the Sinai believed to be destined for the Gaza Strip, including short-range rockets and antiaircraft and antitank missiles.
Press reports have indicated that Egyptian authorities are worried that Islamist militants in the Sinai may soon resume attacks in response to the Egyptian army’s statements that it does not intend to stop its operations or negotiate with the militants.