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Tag: Sinai

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Israeli experts have nearly completed the restoration of the five-century-old, 2.5 mile wide walls of Jerusalem. The $5 million undertaking – the first restoration in a century – which commenced in 2007 is set to be completed by the end of 2011. But this is not the only wall being built in Israel.

Israel is also increasing its presence along the Egyptian border and building a brand new fence after terror attacks last week injured dozens of Israelis and killed eight. The government is building a new, NIS 1.4 billion fence along the border, but construction is expected to take some two years. Consequently, the NSC recommended increasing the IDF’s deployment along the border in the meantime.

Many in Egypt are worried that the increased Israeli military presence along the border could be permanent and will keep tensions between the two countries high. This is among the reasons for protests in Cairo outside the Israeli embassy, where Israeli flags are being burnt.

Reportedly, both the Egyptian and Israeli militaries are in constant discussion over how to tackle the militant issue in the Sinai Peninsula. One anonymous official said, “Right now, we are looking at ways of reducing the tension and working together, logistically, on how to battle violent militants in Egypt…”

Meanwhile, Ynet reported that an “Army inquiry shows at least three of the terrorists that perpetrated attack were Egyptians; clips, radio communication show IDF did everything in its power to prevent Egyptian troops from getting hurt.”

And in other news, Iranian dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, released a statement saying:
“Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be for eradicating the Zionist regime (Israel) as symbol of suppression and discrimination…Iran follows this issue (the eradication of Israel) with determination and decisiveness and will never ever withdraw from this standpoint and policy…”

The remarks came only one day before the annual anti-Israeli rallies named Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which are held nationwide in Iran on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan. On Monday, Ahmadinejad said that Iranians and Muslim nations worldwide should hold Qods rallies and show their willingness to dispose of this “infectious tumor and this regime full of rascality.”

Jordan’s Petroleum Woes

You probably thought that you would not live long enough to hear of a nation in the Middle East complain of not having enough oil to supply its population. Well, this is exactly what the Kingdom of Jordan in the Middle East is facing today.

Unlike many other Arab states and Kingdoms in the Middle East, Jordan does not have its own natural source of oil. It therefore imports natural gas and heavy oil from Egypt. However, supplies from Egypt were recently disrupted following an attack on the Arab Gas Pipeline that occurred last month. This attack marked the second Sinai explosion in a period of one month. According to officials in Cairo, the repairs will take between 7 and 10 days to complete.

This however, is unacceptable for Jordan, which relies on Egypt’s natural gas and heavy oil supplies for 80% of its energy production. The Kingdom reports having experienced a loss of up to JD637 million in the first half of this year as a result of the continuous disruptions in the supply of oil from Egypt. The Kingdom is currently purchasing oil from the international market at a cost of more than $3 million per day.


The current high cost of fuel in the international market and the continuous disruptions in oil supplies has led officials from Amman to seek alternative sources of energy. Although the Kingdom is set to receive oil from neighboring Iraq at an $88 per tonne discount, the Kingdom officials still continue to seek alternative sources of energy that are more reliable and pocket friendly.

This is good news for various energy firms around the globe. Plans are underway for the construction of an offshore terminal for liquefied gas at the Port of Aqaba. Construction is set to begin in 2013 and various international firms have expressed interest in the project including Royal Dutch Shell, Al Fijr, Lemont/General Electric and British Petroleum. If all goes according to plan, the Kingdom would greatly reduce its current 30 000 tonnes a day consumption of heavy oil.

The country’s switch to alternative power will also see a reduction in government spending. Jordan currently spends one-fifth of its gross domestic product on the importation of energy to meet the nation’s needs. The country currently imports 97% of its energy. Amman officials are also exploring energy sources such as nuclear power, wind, solar and oil shale.

Sinai Not Safe?

My first impression of the Sinai Peninsula in the north of Egypt was a pleasant surprise. I travelled there with two of my comrades in the spring of 2006. We took a bus from our kibbutz in the north overnight through Israel and crossed the border at Eilat. After crossing the Egyptian border check (the Sinai Peninsula was ceded to Egypt by Israel in 1982 with an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty) we entered a Jeep accompanied by European tourists (presumably non-Jews) who drove us through the desert in blistering dry desert heat – the temperature must have exceeded 45 degrees Celsius.

Staying for five nights in the resorts of Dahab and Sharm el-Sheik was great. The tourist complexes were filled mostly with scuba diving enthusiasts from England who opted to spend their holiday exploring the exotic marine life in the Gulf of Aquaba from Egypt rather than Eilat.

Just two days upon our return to the kibbutz in the North, however, CNN reported of a series of deadly explosion in Dahab. The incident happened right at the beginning of Sham Al-Nasseim, the Islamic spring celebration. 80 people were wounded and at least 23 were dead. The al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last week, the Egyptian army detained al-Qaeda militants in the Sinai region. According to the Maan news agency, al-Qaeda cells infiltrated the peninsula in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution.

The Sinai also connects Egypt to the Gaza Strip. A crucial natural gas pipeline that runs through the Sinai was bombed five times this year, and post-Mubarak Egyptian authorities hold the al Qaeda responsible for the attack.

An Egyptian intelligence general told CNN:
“Al Qaeda is present in Sinai mainly in the area of Sakaska close to Rafah,..They have been training there for month, but we have not identified their nationalities yet…Units from the 2nd infantry division, with support from general security and the border guards…We plan to clean out those criminal pockets around the area of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid…”

General El-Sayed Abdel-Wahab Mabrouk, the governor of North Sinai confirmed that a flier entitled “Al Qaeda Sinai Branch” circulated outside a mosque in el-Arish last Wednesday. The document called for an Islamic state in Sinai and declared that the group is planning attacks on police stations and security forces.

“A security cordon has been placed around the entrances of el-Arish and reinforcements arrived outside the police stations and the el-Arish central prison in anticipation of an attack on Friday…” said Wahab.

This Dysfunctional Desert

While Bibi says that peace talks could begin as early as the middle of August, only a few days after the Arab League said that it would back direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, five rockets hit the southern town of Eilat and Aqaba, purportedly fired from the Sinai Peninsula. This is just a day after Hamas militants lobbed an upgraded Kassam rocket at Sderot, thereby destroying a hydrotherapy rehabilitation center for children at Sapir College.

Oh and mortar fire too.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator said the Palestinians had submitted a “far-reaching” peace proposal to Barack Obama which would end the conflict with Israel and resolve Palestinian claims – too much hookah puffing?

Obama has pledged to the Palestinians that if Mahmoud Abbas agreed to go into direct talks, there would be an augmentation of the West Bank construction freeze, set to end in late September – too many Marlboro Lights and booze has clearly blurred the President’s Middle East outlook.

As for the Sinai attack, a Jordanian man was killed and three wounded when one of the rockets hit central Aqaba, the Jordanian Red Sea port city. There were, thank God, no casualties reported in Eilat where the rocket struck north of the hotels.

The IDF is in contact with the Jordanian and Egyptian armies.

Egyptian officials told the Israeli media that the attack could not have come from Sinai, which they say is heavily secured – however, Egypt recently sentenced 26 alleged members of a Hezbollah spy cell on charges of plotting attacks on tourist sites and smuggling weapons to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Will Egypt begin to work closer with the Jewish Country to keep the border secure?

Will Hamas succeed in destroying peace talks between Israel, Fatah and Obama, which will, as always, prove ineffectual, anyway?

Stay tuned and find out…

You Don’t Gotta Live In Fear But You Ought’a Read This

On Wednesday, Egyptian security forces uncovered a large cache of missiles and mortar shells in northern Sinai which were bound for Gaza.

The cache was seized near the city of Nahal, on the smuggling route to Gaza. It contained 100 antiaircraft missiles, 40 explosive devices, and 45 rocket-propelled grenades.
Antiaircraft missiles
The officer who was in charge of security in northern Sinai, obtained a tip that the smugglers were storing a large amount of explosives and ammunition leftover from past wars in the region east of Nahal.

Upon receiving the tip, Egypt’s security forces entered the area and located the weapons cache, however no suspects were apprehended. The area was completely combed and the explosives were detonated in a controlled way in central Sinai.

Egypt’s security forces on Wednesday also uncovered three tunnels which connected the Egyptian city of Rafah and the Gaza Strip. In addition, the Egyptian police had confiscated 41 vehicles in Sinai used for smuggling operations into the Gaza Strip. The police found one of the vehicles, with no license plate, during a routine patrol north of the Rafah crossing. The additional 40 vehicles were discovered after the police searched the area.

In related news, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau published a list of travel warnings for the Passover holiday on Sunday; as usual, for this time of year, the Sinai peninsula was high on the list.

“Hezbollah is blaming Israel again and again for the death of Imad Mugniyah and Iran is blaming Israel for the death of the nuclear scientist in Tehran. These accusations increase the threat of terror against Israelis abroad.”

reported the bureau.

Among the areas which the bureau advises against visiting, besides for Sinai, are Chechnya in Russia, Mindanao Island in the Philippines and Cashmere in India. A high level of threat was also reportedly posed in southern Thailand, northern Nigeria and eastern Senegal.

Israelis working with the government in Colombia are advised to conceal their identity, prefer air travel, and to drive only on main roads. Travel warnings are in effect for Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen and the bureau also warns against visiting Djibouti, Algiers, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Togo, Malaysia, the Ivory Coast and Mali. They advise against visiting Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain, Tunisia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and Chad. Libya, Oman, Kenya, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Tajikistan are also on the list.

Palestinian Suez Canal terror cell seized in Egypt

Egyptian security authorities announced the arrest of 25 Palestinians, who they claim have links to the Al Qaeda terror organization and were plotting to bomb American and other ships passing through the Suez Canal. The terror cell planned to fabricate bombs that could be detonated by using cell phones, Egyptian authorities said. The group planned to make car bombs to bomb oil and gas pipe lines running across and alongside the canal; and bombs that could be ferried to the passing vessels in small boats, similar to the way the American destroyer, USS Cole, was severely damaged by Al Qaeda suicide boat bombers in the Gulf of Aden in October, 2000.

USS COLEThe Suez Canal has seen a heavy use of marine traffic lately, despite the frequent attacks by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. Many American naval vessels pass through the canal on their way to and from the Persian Gulf; and with things heating up in Iran, especially following the demonstrations against the results of the June 12th elections there, levels of security alert have been increased by US naval bases in the Persian Gulf.

More recently, Israeli naval vessels have passed through the canal, including at least one submarine capable of firing nuclear tipped missiles; which the Israeli Navy said is to show the Iranians that Israel is watching events going on in Iran very closely.

These and other Palestinians could well be parts of large groups of Palestinians who crossed into Egypt over a year ago when they bombed parts of the security fence between Gaza and Egypt. Although most of the thousands of Palestinians who went on “shopping sprees” in Egypt eventually returned to Gaza, many did not; and they are still hanging out in various parts of the Sinai Peninsula, including along the Red Sea coast; where many Israelis and Egyptians like to go for holiday vacations. For this reason, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is constantly advising Israelis to refrain from vacationing in the Sinai, due to a very real threat of kidnappings and terror attacks.

The 25 detainees told Egyptian authorities that they had received funds for these terror operations from Islamic charities abroad, many of whom are actually fronts for terror organizations like AL Qaeda and Hezbollah.

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