ISIS has claimed responsibility for an April 18 attack on a security checkpoint near the gates of St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, in which one officer was slain and four injured. Founded in the 6th century and located at the foot of Mount Sinai, St. Catherine's is believed to be the world's oldest continuously used Christian monastery, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox church. The attack came just 10 days before Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Egypt, and nine days after two deadly suicide bombings on Coptic churches, also claimed by ISIS. (Al Jazeera, BBC News, April 19)
World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. This year, the stakes got much higher, with multiple foreign interventions in Syria and ISIS striking in Europe. On the night of Obama's 2016 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
In the wake of the Paris attacks, the centripetal tendency in world affairs seems to hold sway—a further Great Power convergence against ISIS. When the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle reaches its position off Syria's coast, it joins a Russian guided missile cruiser already there—and cooperation between the two powers appears imminent. "Under the Russian president's decree, the General Staff is working out joint anti-terrorism operations with the French Navy," said Col-Gen. Andrey Kartapolov, deputy chief of staff, according to Moscow's state news agency Tass. "With the arrival of the Charles de Gaulle warship to the Syrian shore we will organize joint military operations." Citing Kartapolov, Tass also claimed, "Russian warplanes have destroyed about 500 fuel tank trucks that were illegally transporting oil from Syria to Iraq for refining." While not stated, this presumably means ISIS oil. (NPR)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sept. 22 that Egypt violated international law during the creation of a "buffer zone" between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. According to HRW, the creation of the buffer zone required demolition of more than 3,200 buildings in the Sinai Peninsula between July 2013 and August 2015, resulting in the displacement and eviction of "thousands of families." The Egyptian government maintains that the buffer zone is necessary to prevent the importation of weapons from the Gaza Strip to separatist rebels in Sinai who are affiliated with the Islamic State. HRW asserts that the manner in which the buffer zone was created violated international law in multiple respects, including treatment of civilians and proportionality under the laws of war, the right to housing contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the right to property contained in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right. HRW called on the Egyptian government to halt the demolitions in Sinai, provide for adequate compensation of land owners, create a fair resettlement plan for the displaced, and studying whether less destructive means could be employed to neutralize the smuggling tunnels.
Egypt formally opened an expansion to the Suez Canal on Aug. 6, amid pomp and spectacle. The first ship passed through the new waterway only after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, clad in a military uniform, made his entrance by sailing in on the same yacht that was used at the inaugural bash when the canal first opened in 1869. Performers dressed as pharaohs blared patriotic songs from the shore, as demonstrators filled Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate. Among the dignitaries in attendance for the lavish ceremony were King Abdullah II of Jordan and French President Francois Hollande. "The Egyptian people are rewriting history," said the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Adm. Mohab Mamish. "If the people long for life, then destiny must respond." The project, built in just one year and hailed in the national media as "Egypt's gift to the world," is projected to boost revenues from the Suez Canal from $5.3 billion in 2014 to $13.2 billion in 2023.
A protester was killed by security forces in Cairo July 3 at a rally in support of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, on the second anniversary of his overthrow by the military. Supporters of Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood said interior ministry forces opened fire on the protest. (Reuters) Egyptian warplanes meanwhile continued air-strikes on militant targets in the Sinai Peninsula, in what Egyptian media and officials are now calling a "war." Army troops also went house-to-house to arrest militants in Rafah. Among six detained were what officials called ISIS followers who wore military uniforms. An ISIS Twitter account claimed credit for missile strikes on Israeli territory by its forces in Sinai. "Three Grad rockets were fired at Jewish positions in occupied Palestine," the "Sinai Province" ISIS group tweeted. (Al Jazeera, AP)
Militants launched near-simultaneous raids on at least five military checkpoints and a police station in and around Sheikh Zuweid in the north of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the wee hours of July 2. At least 100 militants and 17 soldiers were killed in the clashes. Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014, claimed responsibility for the attacks. North Sinai has been under a state of emergency and a curfew since October, when an attack on a checkpoint in el-Arish left dozens of soldiers dead. In a separate development that day, security nine members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, including former MP Nasr al-Hafi, were killed in a police raid on an apartment in western Cairo. Following the riad, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying that several of its leaders had been "murdered... in cold blood" and urged Egyptians to "rise in revolt" agains the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. (BBC News, Egyptian Streets, July 1)
Egyptian security forces killed 12 suspected militants during raids on the Sinai Peninusla towns of al-Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid last week, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported May 25. Security sources said 18 suspects were arrested in the raids, and that forces destroyed various "terrorist hotbeds." as well. One solider was killed in a clash with a "terrorist cell" in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. The armed forces announced two weeks earlier that "security operations" have left a total of 725 suspected militants killed between late October and late April. (Aswat Masriya via AllAfrica, May 26) Iran's Press TV on June 1 identifies the group involved in the clashes as the (ISIS-aligned) Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which it now says has been renamed the Velayat Sinai. Although it has not been reported elsewhere, the account claims militants destroyed the (presumably Shi'ite) al-Rifa'i Mosque in Sheikh Zuweid, leaving it "flattened" with rocket-propelled grenades.