To keep the truce with the Islamist terrorist networks in Sinai in place, while avoiding a large-scale military operation to suppress them, Egypt is now releasing dozens of jailed Salafist gunmen in batches every few days, so feeding the Islamists a steady supply of reinforcements. Cairo is also in negotiation with Bedouin tribal elders to grant a body of 6,000 Al-Qaeda-linked Salafi gunmen the status of an approved, independent militia. Armed with up-to-date Egyptian weapons, this militia is to be charged with responsibility for maintaining security in the peninsula.
This may be a neat way out for Egypt and let the Morsi government off the hook of grappling with the violent Islamist networks infesting Sinai. But it leaves Israel squarely face to face with a whole new terrorist outfit which has the freedom to choose between operating in the service of Al Qaeda or Cairo – or playing both sides.
Israeli security circles on the southern front familiar with the Sinai security situation explain that the Egyptian army’s claim Monday, Sept. 3 that it pulled “another 20 tanks” out of the peninsula, marking the tail end of its putative counter-terror military offensive, was therefore the reverse of welcome news for Israel.
All the same, out of certain diplomatic considerations, Israelis officials are collaborating with the US and Egypt in drawing a veil over this dangerous downturn in security along its southwestern border.