The Security Question in the post-Mubarak Egypt

The Security Void in Sinai


The article deals with the security situation in Egypt after the ousting of Mubarak’s government in 2011. It addresses implications of the security void in the Sinai Peninsula, which are closely related to the failure of the Egyptian security forces to ensure security in this area. The focus is turned at the growth of violent attacks against security personnel and cross-border attacks aimed at Israeli targets. By comparing three periods - before the 2011 uprising; between the 2011 uprising and 2013 Mursi’s deposition; and the period after Mursi’s deposition on July 3, 2013 - the article maps changes in the pattern of violent conduct. It documents a significant rise of violence and intensification of Jihadist activities in the region after the uprising of 2011. Mursi’s deposition triggered further intensification of violence in the region, as well as novel patterns of violence such as the use of sophisticated weaponry and methods of combat (e.g. suicide attacks). This change is linked to the expansion of the Jihadist agenda and the greater involvement of the Jihadist groups in the battle against the Egyptian security forces. The article suggests that the core of the security crisis is closely linked to negligence and marginalization of the local population by the government. Therefore, as long as Sinai is approached merely through firm security measures that fail to address the developmental needs of the locals, the security of the region cannot be guaranteed.

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Článek se zabývá otázkou bezpečnostní situace v Egyptě po svržení Mubárakovy vlády v roce 2011. Diskutuje zejména důsledky bezpečnostního vakua na Sinajském poloostrově, které úzce souvisí se selháním egyptských bezpečnostních složek v zajištění bezpečnosti v této oblasti. Pozornost je zaměřena na nárůst násilných útoků proti představitelům bezpečnostních složek a přeshraniční útoky vedené proti izraelským cílům. Pomocí srovnání tří časových úseků – před povstáním v roce 2011; mezi povstáním 2011 a sesazením prezidenta Mursího v roce 2013; a po sesazení Mursího 3. července 2013 – článek mapuje změny v podobě a způsobu násilí. Studie dokládá podstatný nárůst násilností a stupňování džihádistické činnosti po povstání v roce 2011. Sesazení Mursího v červenci 2013 pak dále nejenže vyvolalo další zintenzívnění násilností v oblasti, zároveň se objevily nové způsoby provedení násilných činů jako např. použití sofistikované výzbroje a metod boje (viz sebevražedné atentáty). Tato změna je spojena s rozšířením džihádistické agendy a s větším zapojením militantních skupin do boje proti egyptským ozbrojeným složkám. Článek naznačuje, že jádro bezpečnostní krize je úzce spojeno se zanedbáním a marginalizací sinajského obyvatelstva centrální vládou. Proto, dokud se bude k Sinaji přistupovat pouze skrze striktní bezpečnostní opatření, která neřeší základní potřeby místních obyvatel, tak bezpečnost regionu nemůže být zaručena.


Tento článek vznikl v rámci řešení grantového projektu SGS-2012-030 s názvem: Arabské jaro: příčiny, průběh, důsledky.

Klíčová slova

Sinaj; Egypt; bezpečnost; terorismus; beduíni; Muslimské bratrstvo; džihádisté; egyptská armáda.


Sinai; Egypt; security; terrorism; Bedouins; Muslim Brotherhood; Jihadists; Egyptian military.


Egypt is an important regional actor in the Middle East - given to, on the one hand, factors such as its population size, army strength, and the religious authority in the Muslim world and, on the other hand, its foreign policy imperatives such as close ties with the United States, a “cold peace” with Israel and its engagement in the Palestinian question. For the last three decades, Egypt’s internal stability has been perceived by the international community, overlooking the repressive character of Mubarak’s regime, as an important prerequisite of broader political stability in the region. The uprising in 2011 and the subsequent transitional process have, however, brought many security challenges to Egypt’s internal stability, which have capacity to affect the wider regional security situation. In this regard, the manner how Egypt’s post-Mubarak leadership has been prioritizing and addressing the emerged security challenges is of paramount importance. Despite the proclaimed prioritization of security by the post-Mubarak leaderships, the overall security situation in the country has significantly worsened since the popular uprising in 2011. This has been caused largely by the mismanagement of the security apparatus, or better of the government, to deliver security as a fundamental and essential public good.

Arguably the worst security situation is in the Sinai Peninsula. Since the beginning of 2011 the northern parts of the Sinai Peninsula have faced a severe security crisis. The period was marked by regular assaults, which were aimed mostly at the police and army personnel and carried out by unidentified attackers. The already tense situation escalated after the deposition of President Muhammad Mursi and his leadership on July 3, 2013. Since then, the northern Sinai region has been witnessing violent assaults and attacks virtually on a daily basis. Apart from the intensification of the attacks, their implementation gained new dimensions including the first attempts to use suicide bombers and car explosions. In this context the following questions emerge: How these developments in the Sinai Peninsula fit into a broader security framework in Egypt after the 2011 revolution? What are the rationales behind the security crisis in Sinai? Why has the situation changed dramatically after the ousting of the President Muhammad Mursi?

The article does not seek to provide ultimate answers to these questions. Its aim is rather to elaborate on them and by doing so offer a solid contextualized analysis of the issue through which a further discussion on the topic can be stimulated. As the prescribed length of the article limits to expand the analysis, the article concentrates mainly on the security vacuum in Sinai in relation to the Egyptian domestic political arena and the Israeli security precautions. In this regard, the article acknowledges the relevance, but leaves aside, for instance, a possible embedding of the Sinai security void into a broader regional context, or its relation to the migration from African states (e.g. Sudan, Eritrea) via Sinai to Israel. The article is based on a detailed examination of both primary and secondary Arabic and English sources related to the topics of (in)security, Islamism, and terrorism in the Egyptian context.


Security is a public good, which should be non-rivaled and non-excludable - i.e. accessible to all citizens. Ensuring internal security is a task of the state and the security apparatus is the instrument to achieve this goal. According to the Weberian conception of the modern state, a functioning state has to possess a monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a given territory and its inhabitants. When the state fails to provide security to its citizens, the social contract between the state and the citizens is disrupted. In a logical step, the inhabitants might start to turn their loyalty to non-state actors, who are able or appear so to ensure their security. The alternative security structures, which are being established, however, further undermine the bond between the state and the society weakening the position of the state. Depending on other factors (e.g. the economic situation) and the length of the absent monopoly on violence, the state might lose effective control over certain regions leading to a spiral ending in a full collapse of the state. [1]

The Failed States Index clearly shows a sharp drop in Egypt’s ranking in the last two years (see Graph 1). While in 2011, Egypt occupied the 45th position (86.8 out of 120 negative points). In 2012, Egypt sank to the 31st position and was marked as an alert (90.4 points). In 2013, the negative trend was confirmed as the country acquired 0.2 more points (90. 6 points). [2]

Graph 1: The Failed State Index - Egypt between 2006 and 2013

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Source: Country data&trends: Egypt in 2013. In: FFP: State Index [online]. 2014 [cit. 2014-03-04]. Available at:

Looking closer at the indicator monitoring the performance of the security apparatus and its monopoly on the use of violence, we can see a negative trend, too. Egypt gained 0.7 negative points in this field compared to the situation prior to the 2011 revolution. [3] While it would be premature to argue that Egypt is inevitably heading towards a collapse, it is apparent there is an urgency to ensure security as a public good, which is accessible to all Egyptian citizens.


During the Mubarak era the security apparatus was a tool of a systematic oppression. It served as an instrument of coercion to protect the ruling establishment from dissenters. The brutality of the security apparatus in dealing with members of the opposition and ordinary Egyptians that expressed itself, for instance, in a systematic use of torture and lack of accountability, was without doubt one of the catalysts for the popular uprising in the beginning of 2011. [4] It is no coincidence that the popular protests started massively on January 25 - the Egyptian national holiday that was meant to celebrate the police forces.

On the fourth day of the popular protest, January 28, the security forces retreated and withdrew from the public space. Despite the temporary deployment of military forces in the Egyptian streets throughout the 18-day protests, a considerable security vacuum emerged. [5] Even though the police forces slowly returned to the police stations, they were relatively absent from the streets. In many cases, their activities were far from actively ensuring public security and law enforcement. Broadly speaking, since the uprising in 2011 the activities of security forces have oscillated between two poles: (1) passivity or reluctance to commit to law enforcement, and (2) continuity of the well-established brutal praxis; both reconfirming the wide-spread distrust of Egyptians in the state security body.

In many cases, security forces were reluctant or unwilling to ensure public security and to protect civilians (e.g. the massacre at the Port Said stadium in 2012). Parts of the security forces also continued in brutal practices known from the Mubarak era. The liaison with the representatives of the military proved to be, in particular, effective. The Maspero incident (October 2011), subsequent Muhammad Mahmud clashes (November 2011), and the dispersion of pro-Mursi sit-ins in Rabaa al-Adawiyya and Nahda Square (August 2013) are among the most severe confrontations between civilians and the security forces since the uprising.

The failing performance of the security forces reflected on the increased demand for illicit weapons at the black market. Since the popular uprising in 2011, the demand has dramatically increased. In many cases the prices doubled or tripled. [6] The black market was significantly boosted by an increased volume of arms smuggled into Egypt. In addition to the “traditional” route from Sudan, the route on the Western border with Libya gained momentum. News reports indicate that since the toppling of Muammar al-Qadhdhafi an increasing number of smuggled arms, including heavy weaponry such as ground-to-ground missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, were brought over the porous border into Egypt. [7]

The implications for security that stem from an increasing volume of weapons circulating among Egyptians are considerable. As Sadek points out [8], the rather cheap unlicensed firearms, i.e. shotguns and homemade rifles, are being used on a regular basis by individuals in order to protect their lives and property from thieves and thugs. Apart from this, there is another security implication related to the uncontrolled influx and circulation of weapons: the acquisition of the weapons by organized non-state actors, such as criminal groups and militias, which, according to the UN report [9], poses a significant challenge to Egypt’s internal security. Against the backdrop of these developments the worsened security situation appears to leave deeper imprints especially in the neglected and peripheral areas of the country, where the local informal security structures proved to be in many cases more reliable than the central government. In this regard, the Sinai Peninsula belongs to one of the most affected areas.


Due to its proximity to Israel and the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula is a geostrategically significant area. For decades, it served as a battleground for Egypt and Israel. After Israel returned Sinai to Egypt in 1982, Sinai became also increasingly important for the tourism industry located mostly on its southern coast. Ever since Egypt regained authority over Sinai, the territory has, however, never been under full sovereign control of the government. According to the peace treaty, Egypt is only allowed to deploy a limited number of security and military forces as well as the respective weaponry in the four different zones.

Being viewed by the central government in Cairo through the prism of security reflected on the development of the region. Bahgat argues that the security dimension is the reason behind the state’s failure to develop Sinai. [10] Vast areas in Sinai are critically underdeveloped and lacking basic infrastructure and services due to the lack of state investment. The government’s negligence of the region rendered Sinai (with the exception of the tourist seaside resorts) one of the most economically and politically marginalized regions in Egypt. [11]

The troubled relation between the government and the local population

The prioritization of the security imperative significantly influenced the relationship between the government and the local population. The latter, comprised mainly of Bedouins, was viewed by the central government as the fifth column whose loyalty could not be taken for granted. In the course of last three decades, the state media and officials portrayed Bedouins as criminals, smugglers, and spies institutionalizing them as second-class citizens.

The government’s hostile and distrustful approach towards Bedouins was codified in law as well. For instance, Bedouins were banned from owning land or joining the armed forces. [12] Despite a flourishing tourism sector in the seaside resorts such as Sharm al-Sheikh, Taba, Dahab, the nomadic population did not profit from revenues of the tourism industry. Based on prevalent employment discrimination, the majority of jobs in the tourism sector were assigned to non-Sinai Egyptians. [13] In this regard, it is not surprising that the Bedouins’ identification with the state, [14] or more precisely adherence to the state laws and acceptance of its authorities was comparably weaker than in other parts of Egypt. The government’s focus on Sinai’s security intensified after a series of bomb attacks on the Sinai seaside resorts in the last decade (2004, 2005, and 2006). Mubarak’s government blamed local Bedouin tribes and initiated waves of brutal crackdowns on the local nomadic population that included mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, and torture. [15]


The police’s brutality and the politics of marginalization encouraged the local population to join the uprising of 2011. Unlike in other parts of Egypt, the protesters in Sinai were armed and lasted longer than in the rest of the country. Not surprisingly, police stations were among the prime targets of local protesters mirroring the hostile relationship between Bedouins and the state apparatus. In response to the intense attacks, police forces virtually withdrew from the streets in the northern parts of Sinai. Since then, the police has not shown any eagerness to retake its position and return to the streets to enforce the law. In this regard, only the military has had tangible presence in Sinai. [16]

Between the uprising of 2011 and the end of June 2013 random assaults against security forces continued. The majority was aimed exclusively at the police and military targets. The attackers usually opened gunfire from a car in front of a police station, a military camp or at a security check-point and drove away. In most cases, the assailants were not apprehended. The assaults, however, did not bear features of an organized terrorist activity. In vast majority of cases, no group claimed responsibility for the attack. Taking into account these common patterns, the historical developments, the sudden security void in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising, and ever-lasting security politics of an iron-fist in the region, it is plausible to argue that these attacks were a result of accumulated frustration, continuous mistreatment by the central government and the longing for revenge among the local population.

Despite the worsened security situation in the region, there had been no serious attempt of the two post-Mubarak leaderships - i.e. the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Mursi’s administration - to intervene and address the situation until the Rafah border incident in August 2012, in which a group of masked gunmen killed sixteen Egyptian border guards in Rafah. This incident gave a prompt impulse to the Egyptian government to pay more attention to the region.

A massive military operation, coined “Eagle”, was launched. The strategy of the “iron fist” known from the Mubarak era was resumed. Similar to the actions of Mubarak’s regime in the aftermaths of the terrorist attacks in Sinai (2004, 2005, 2006), the Bedouins were the main target of repercussions. They paid again a “heavy price” as they were being subjected to numerous raids, intimidation, interrogations, torture, and temporary arrests without due process. [17] In this regard, Bedouins’ hopes pinned on Muhammad Mursi and his government did not materialize. Although the Mursi government showed an interest in Sinai and promised to develop the region and to integrate Bedouins into the majority society, the government’s efforts appeared to be shallow. According to Bedouin tribal leaders, Mursi’s government had in fact done little to deliver on its promises of development or integration. Besides that, it did also show no will to compromise on the subject of pardoning hundreds of Bedouins who were imprisoned under Husni Mubarak. [18]

Islamist Militants

Over the course of the last years, a conservative interpretation of Islam (Salafism) found fertile soil in Sinai. The proponents of Salafi Islam formed several groups, which preach Salafism, promote the Salafi-lifestyle, and provide a wide-scope of social services. Their activities include also Sharia based courts that emerged as a competitor to the traditional tribal courts. [19] In the aftermath of the 2011 uprising local Salafi groups were joined by newcomers that brought along more extreme forms of Salafi dogma. In relation to this trend, there were signs of an emerging Jihadist threat against the backdrop of the security void in the peninsula. However, it was difficult to assess the credibility of statements and capabilities of various groups calling themselves “al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula” and “Ansar al-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula” that pledged fealty to al-Qaeda. As Zelin points out, the first credible sign of the Jihadist threat in Sinai was an incident in summer 2012, when an Egyptian and a Saudi national infiltrated Israel where they killed an Israeli worker. [20]

Shortly after this incident, a new group - Majlis Shura al-Mujahidin fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis (MSM) - claimed responsibility in a video release with a martyrdom message of both attackers who were killed following the attack. The group described the attack as the initial phase in retaking Jerusalem. In April 2013, the MSM claimed responsibility for firing two rockets on Eilat, the Israeli seaside resort. In a response, Israel killed a suspect, Haitham Ziyad al-Mishaal, a member of MSM, who was believed to be responsible for the rocket attacks. In a MSM commemoration video of al-Mishaal, the MSM reminds that al-Mishaal had been previously a member of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the militant proxy of Hamas). However, he left the organization disillusioned over Hamas participation in the elections in 2006. [21]

The MSM and its activities were in many ways characteristic to other emerging militant groups based in Sinai. Three common features can be named. First, it is a commonplace that the ideology of the Sinai militants stems from extreme interpretations of Salafi Islam. Second, by using the black standard with shahada inscription - a common banner for Jihadi groups - and regular quotations of leading global Jihadists, the groups clearly look up to the “icons” of the global Jihad movements such as Usama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and embrace the tenets of al-Qaeda Jihadist ideology. [22] Third, the liberation of the historical Palestine, as often already the names of the groups [23] suggest, forms the essential point of their agenda. On this ground, it is also not surprising that there is a close relationship between Sinai and Gaza-based militants. [24]

To sum up, the period after the uprising of 2011 to Mursi’s deposition in July 2013 was featured by a rise of violence carried out by both local Bedouins and the Jihadi militant newcomers. While the former focused on the Egyptian police and military targets, the latter’s target was Israel. Both groups took advantage of the security void in the region and the virtual absence of the law enforcement personnel in the streets of the northern cities and villages. This pattern has, however, fundamentally changed since the beginning of July 2013.


The security crisis in the Sinai Peninsula has gained a new worrisome level. The amount of assaults has skyrocketed since. They have been carried out almost on a daily basis. The use of sophisticated weaponry, such as rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), [25] machine guns, and suicide car bombs, has become a standard feature of attacks. Whilst the animosity of the local population towards the Egyptian police and army personnel is infamous, it is unlikely this would be the only cause behind the current escalation of violence in the Sinai region. The question arises: what has changed in the security dynamics in the region to trigger such a dramatic change?

The answer can be found in a shift in the agenda of Jihadi militants. Some of the most active groups such as, for instance, Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, found an effective twist in their logic to expand the list of their enemies and include the new military-backed Egyptian leadership. The Jihadi militants implicitly denounced Mursi’s deposition and interpreted the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters by the new political leadership as utmost hostile towards Islam and thus requiring their reaction. The statement of the Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis from September 16, 2013 aptly underscores the alternation of the agenda: “this is a stage [the period after Mursi’s deposition] when the enemies of Islam gather, seculars and deviants, hypocrites and crusaders inside together with outside in terms of Jews and western crusaders in a total warfare against Islam in Egypt, and its spearhead in it are the Egyptian criminal police and army.” [26]

The reason behind this profound shift can be located in the uncompromising approach of the new post-Mursi leadership towards any (armed) Islamist forces. From the Jihadists point of view, despite their disgust towards the participation of Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist forces in the “democracy game”, the Mursi’s government including Salafi representatives was definitely ideologically closer than the military-backed government. Shortly after Mursi’s deposition, the Egyptian army declared a nation-wide war on terror, which, in practice, can be interpreted as a war against all forms of Islam that are not perceived as moderate. On this ground, it is no wonder that the Egyptian army included the Sinai-Jihadists into this category, too. Soon, the narrative portraying Sinai Jihadists as a militant proxy of the Muslim Brotherhood emerged. The state media and anti-Brotherhood outlets commonly alleged that the Muslim Brothers take advantage of personal contacts to the militants and use them as a tool to regain political power. [27] Whilst the allegations are difficult to verify (amidst the current information war between the Brotherhood/Mursi and anti-Brotherhood/Mursi camps), the wide-spread circulation of the narrative further reinforced the military’s call to combat “terrorism”.

Only two days after Mursi’s deposition, on July 5, 2013, the emergency rule was declared over the northern Sinai region and exceptional security measures, such as curfew starting from 4pm or shoot-to-kill policy around security check-points and security compounds, were deployed. The answer came soon. The intensity of attacks on security targets in Sinai has grown unprecedentedly since. Near daily attacks on security personnel in the region were reported. [28]

In early August 2013, shortly after the military leader General al-Sisi claimed to have gained a popular mandate to take firm measures against terrorism, the army launched a massive counter-terrorism campaign in Sinai. In the meantime, the violence, however, further escalated. Twenty-five unarmed conscripts were killed in an execution-style attack after their bus came under fire on their way back to their barracks. This incident, which gave a blow to the military’s claim of keeping control over the situation, was followed by series of car and suicide bomb attacks - of which the latter is rather an unknown feature in the Egyptian context. These included severe incidents such as an attempted assassination of the Minister of Interior in an affluent Cairan District (September 2013), attacks on security headquarters in South Sinai and military intelligence in Ismaliyya (October 2013), or a car bomb explosion devastating Dakahliya Security Directorate (December 2013). The last major incident - a synchronized series of bomb explosions and attacks on Cairo Security Directorate and security patrols in greater Cairo in January 2014 - underscored the gravity of the security crisis in the Sinai, which spilled over well beyond the Peninsula. These developments indicate that despite a heavy-handed military campaign in Sinai, militants were able not only to continue to carry out their activities within the Sinai region, but, more importantly, they managed to expand their area of operation and strike in major Egyptian cities including the capital.

The interim government capitalized on the violent incidents to further accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of the responsibility for these attacks and terrorism in the country in general. The most active militant group - Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which claimed responsibility for most of the major attacks - however, repeatedly declined to be affiliated to any political group undermining the government’s argument. While the affiliation or neutrality of the militant groups presents a disputed subject, the nature of the targets shows a striking uniformity. In almost all cases, the targets were police or military compounds and personnel. The militant groups seemed to be preoccupied by the conflict with the Egyptian security forces to that extent that the amount of attacks carried out against Israeli targets significantly dropped in last months (i.e. between July 2013 and February 2014). That, however, should not imply that the Jihadi groups would have given up on carrying out attacks against Israel. An incident, which occurred in February 2014 in the Egyptian border and tourist resort in Taba, gives an evidence of the lasting Jihadi interest in hurting Israel. A suicide bomber of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis blew himself in a tourist bus heading to Israeli Eilat killing three Korean tourists and an Egyptian driver. [29] This incident points out at the enormous flexibility and mobility on the Jihadists’ side. While one can assume that their priority will remain the internal fight against the Egyptian security establishment, the attacks aimed at Israeli targets cannot be ruled out.

Iron-fist tactics - a successful long-term strategy?

During September 2013 the military intensified its efforts combating the Jihadist elements in Sinai. The army launched a wave of massive crackdowns in the northern parts of Sinai and scored several particular successes. Its possibilities were, however, constrained by three underlying factors.

First, the amount of military personnel as well as the deployed weaponry in the region (especially in the border area) is significantly limited by the provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Even though Israel agreed several times on a temporary increase of the deployed Egyptian security personnel, the increased presence of the security forces appeared to be inadequate. The operational limitations of the security personnel were, for instance, demonstrated during the funeral of four members of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. The event, which was reportedly attended by hundreds among them also fellow fighters and wanted Jihadist fugitives, was left without an intervention by the security forces as in case of a confrontation the security personnel would be easily outnumbered. [30]

Second and closely related to the prior, the Egyptian army is not ideally equipped and trained for a counter-insurgency campaign in a desert mountainous area. The weaponry Egypt obtains through annual 1.3 USD billion US military aid including the tanks and F-16 fighter jets is not suitable for fighting small, but highly mobile groups of militants. [31]

Third, the army cannot rely on the collaboration of local people. The undertaken security measures left an extensive collateral damage. Apart from the security raids, destroyed houses, burnt cars, the security forces decisively attacked the tunnel system under the Egyptian-Gaza border, which has been a vital source of living for many locals. Some Jihadi groups even took advantage of the negative impact of the military campaign on the life of the local population and begun to play “the solidarity card” - by pointing out to the collateral damage caused by the military campaign, they strove to gain a wider support among the local population.

The “iron fist” strategy will unlikely bring a satisfactory mid- or long-term solution to security risks present in Sinai. As Sheikh Hamdin Abu Fasil, a Sinai-based cleric, pointed out already in 2012 in a comment on the military operation “Eagle” under President Mursi: “instead of coming with water and food to the Bedouin, they [the government] came with heavy weapons to drive the Bedouin from the desert. This increases the tension and turns the region into a barrel of a gun that can blow up at any time”. [32] The continuous perception of Sinai as a security region that implies the negligence of its economic development further feeds the growing frustration of the local population. Similarly, eight Egyptian human rights organizations repeatedly pointed out that as long as the region would be addressed only through security measures, security and stability of the Sinai Peninsula cannot be achieved. [33] In other words, the local population’s discontent represents a ticking bomb. The longer the security politics continues, the greater the probability is that local Bedouin resistance will fuse with the Jihadi militancy. In this regard, the combination of the Bedouin knowledge of terrain with the militants’ “know-how” can have far reaching consequences for two pivotal areas of the Egyptian national interest: the tourism industry and Egypt’s relations with Israel.

Implications for Israel

The security crisis in the Sinai is not an isolated domestic problem. It has become a thorny security issue of neighborhood politics, which has the capacity to destabilize the region. The establishment of Jihadi militant organizations operating amidst the ongoing security vacuum raised concerns particularly in Israel.

Following the uprising in 2011, Israel - being a declared Jihadists’ target - faced numerous cross-border attacks and infiltration attempts carried out by various Sinai-based militants. Against the backdrop of the intensifying activities of the Jihadist groups Israel deployed a greater number of troops along its southern borders. While the random cross-border attacks might not have reached the desired destructive goals on the side of the Sinai militants, they present, however, a risk to the Israeli tourism revenues. The coastal area of Eilat generates one quarter of the Israeli tourism revenues and belongs to one of the prime sources of foreign currency in the country. The Israeli government appears to be fully aware of these figures.

In July 2013, shortly after Mursi’s deposition, Israel installed the mobile Iron Dome anti-rocket battery near Eilat to intercept rockets fired at the city. Furthermore, high-tech electronics along with defensive weaponry and hundreds of security personnel were tasked as a part of “Operation Hourglass” to look after the safety of Eilat’s tourists. The Israeli authorities prepared also for a possible rocket attack at a plane approaching the airport in Eilat. Selected Israeli carriers were fitted with the C-Music device, which can “blind” heat-seeking rockets sending out distorted data about the temperature. [34]

The security alertness in Israel remains high. From the security point of view, not much has changed for Israel (in terms of alertness) after July 2013. Nevertheless, it can be argued that the Egyptian army is a more predictable partner for Israel than the Mursi administration because the Jihadist threat in Sinai concerns both of them. Given to the deep-rooted public animosity towards Israel in Egypt, the collaboration between the two armies is usually not disclosed by either side in order not to discredit the Egyptian forces in the Egyptian public arena. Hence, it is also unlikely to expect any greater involvement of the Israeli forces in the counter-terrorism campaign in Sinai unless a large terror attack occurs. This assumption was reinforced at the beginning of 2014. After a several months of break in attacks carried out against the Israeli targets the Sinai militants fired a rocket at Eilat. The Israeli government restrained once again from adopting any noticeable counter-measures vis-a-vis the Sinai militants. The same approach came a month later after the suicide attack on the tourist bus in Taba.


Over the last six decades, Sinai has played an important role in Egyptian regional politics. Its importance has not diminished. It remains a significant factor for both the Egyptian national security and the regional politics in the foreseeable future. However, as long as the Sinai Peninsula is treated and approached merely through the security paradigm which implies heavy-handed measures to crackdown on militants, the security of the region cannot be guaranteed. At the moment, reversing the deteriorating security trend in the Peninsula is largely dependent on the government and its capacity to adopt a comprehensive security policy for the region that would also address the developmental needs of the local population. So far, the government has, however, chosen the path of short-term security measures that fail to address the cause of the security crisis in the Peninsula.

[1] ROTBERG, Robert I. The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States: Breakdown, Prevention, and Repair. P. 1-50. In: ROTBERG, Robert I. (ed.): When states fail: Causes and consequences. 2004, Princeton, US: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-11671-5.

[2] Ranking is based on a total score of 12 indicators. Each indicator is rated on a scale between 0 and 10, with 0 being the most stable (lowest intensity) and 10 being the less stable. The total score is 120 and is the sum of all indicators. Country data&trends: Egypt in 2013. In: FFP: State Index [online]. 2014 [cit. 2014-03-04]. Available at:

[3] Ref. 2

[4] Author’s interviews with Dr. Saif al-Islam, director of Hisham Mubarak Law Center (Cairo, 15. 11. 2013), Hafez Abu Seada, director of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (Cairo, 17. 11. 2013).

[5] KRIEG, Andreas. Egyptian Civil-Military Relations and Egypt's Potential Transition to Democracy. In: Publications in Contemporary Affairs (PiCA) [online]. [cit. 2014-03-05]. Available at:

[6] SADEK, George. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Egypt. In: Library of Congress [online]. 2013 [cit. 2014-03-05]. Available at:; MAHARIB, Isra'. Izdihar suq “al-kalashnikuf” wa “silah al-akabir” fi saeed misr raghm irtifaa asarihima: The boom of the market with kalashnikovs and larger weapons in the Upper Egypt despite the rise of their prices. In: Aswat Masriya [online]. 2013 [cit. 2014-03-05]. Available at:

[7] The UN Report by the panel experts on Libya. Final report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011) concerning Libya [online]. February, 2013 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[8] SADEK ref. 6

[9] UN report ref. 7

[10] Fault Lines: The battle for the Sinai. Al Jazeera [online]. 19.12.2012 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[11] For instance, both Northern and Southern Sinai governorates were assigned only four seats out of 508 in the People’s Assembly.

[12] REVKIN, Mara a AUF, Yussef. Egypt’s Fallen Police State Gives Way to Vigilante Justice. The Atlantic [online]. 3. 4. 2013 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[13] EL-KOUNY, Nada. Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula: From liberation to neglect. Al Ahram Online [online]. 25. 4. 2013 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[14] One of four Sinai Bedouins does not possess the personal ID. See REVKIN and AUF ref. 12

[15] FAULT LINES, ref. 10

[16] HAUSLOHNER, Abigail. Egypt's government struggles to exert authority in the Sinai desert. The Washington Post [online]. 2. 6. 2013 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[17] FAULT LINES, ref. 10; EL-KOUNY, ref. 13

[18] HAUSLOHNER, Abigail. Correspondent's Diary: Among the Smugglers of Sinai. The Washington Post [online]. 3. 6. 2013 [cit. 2013-09-10]. Available at:

[19] ASHOUR, Omar. Jihadists and Post-Jihadists in the Sinai. Foreign Policy [online]. 5. 9. 2012 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[20] ZELIN, Aaron. Terror from Sinai: Global Jihadist Groups on Israel's Doorstep. The Washington Institute [online]. 20. 6. 2012 [cit. 2013-09-10]. Available at: http:/

[21] TAMIMI, Aymenn Jawad. Majlis shura al-Mujahidin: Between Israel and Hamas. Middle East Forum [online]. 6. 5. 2013 [cit. 2013-09-01]. Available at:

[22] See e.g. the video release of the Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis which pays credits to Musa al-Zarqawi: Ansar bayt al-maqdis fi saina tawajjuh safaat qawiyya li-l-yahud (eng. “Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis” in Sinai gave a strong blow to the Jews) [online]. 11. 1. 2013 [cit. 2013-09-01]. Available at:

[23] “Bayt al-maqdis” or “bayt al-muqaddis” is an Arabic term referring to Jerusalem.

[24] ZELIN, ref. 20

[25] Cf. UN REPORT, ref. 7

[26] The Statement of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group: The Egyptian army, criminality and betrayal. September 2013 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[27] It is noteworthy to mention that the reaction of some Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders implicitly supported the close ties of the organization to the Sinai militants. Probably, one of the most outspoken moments was the statement of Muhammad Beltagi, one of the leading figures of the Muslim Brothers, during the Rabaa al-Adawiyya sit-in in July 2013. See the video: Muhammad Baltagi: ma yahduth fi saina sayatawaqqaf inda taraju al-Sisi an al-inqilab (eng. Muhammad Beltagi: what is happening in Sinai will stop when al-Sisi retreats from the coup). ONtv [online] 9. 7. 2013, [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[28] LOVELUCK, Louisa. Desert Fury. Foreign Policy [online]. 2013 [cit. 2014-03-06]. Available at:

[29] The Statement of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group: Announcing our responsibility for the attack of the tourist bus in Taba. February 2014 [cit. 2014-3-02]. Available at:

[30] ABU AMER, Adnan. Hamas, Gaza’s Armed Factions Struggle To Stay Out of Sinai Conflict. In: Al Monitor [online]. 15. 8. 2013 [cit. 2013-10-01]. Available at:

[31] VOGELSANG, Susan S. U.S.-Egypt Security Cooperation after Egypt’s January 2011 Revolution. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011. ISBN 1484849019; STIER, Ken. Egypt’s Military-Industrial Complex. The Time [online]. 9. 2. 2011 [cit. 2013-10-03]. Available at:,8599,2046963,00.html

[32] FAULT LINES, ref. 10

[33] Fala narfudu al-khiyar al-zaif bayna itlaq al-junud al-mukhtatifin wa rafaa al-zulm an abna saina (eng. We refuse the false option between the release of the abducted soldiers and lifting the oppression of the Sinai people). In: The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights [online]. 20. 5. 2013 [cit. 2013-10-03]. Available at:

[34] WILLIAMS, Dan. Israel moves to protect Eilat-bound planes from Sinai jihadis. In: Reuters [online]. 22. 7. 2013 [cit. 2014-03-06]. Available at:

Title in English:

The Security Question in the post-Mubarak Egypt:
The Security Void in Sinai

Title in Czech:

Otázka bezpečnosti v post-Mubárakově Egyptě:
Bezpečnostní vakuum na Sinaji










Obrana a strategie


University of Defence


ISSN 1214-6463 (print) and ISSN 1802-7199 (on-line)




Volume 14, Number 1 (June 2014)




5 March 2014


25 April 2014

Published online:

15 June 2014

Created 15.6.2014 11:16:07 | read 12219x | Frank


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