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ISIS militants in Sinai
ISIS eyeing South Sinai
The threat of ISIS terrorist attacks is growing in south Sinai as their agenda is shifting to establish a strong presence in the area; Israelis are strongly advised to stay away from the popular tourist region.

Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau has issued an urgent travel warning to Israelis travelling in the Sinai several days ago, following reports of ISIS's intention to take control of the peninsula.

 

 

ISIS's branch in the Sinai Peninsula is comprised of the local Bedouin tribes and Salafi jihadists. The Salafi part of the extension has grown rapidly within the last year compared to their Bedouin counterparts, and the shift made a noticeable difference in goals.

 

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The current reality is that the group is now considering itself as more jihadist, and so changed course accordingly and is now planning to either take over or establish a caliphate in Sinai, setting out of their comfort zone at the north-east part of the peninsula.

 

ISIS militants in Sinai (File)
ISIS militants in Sinai (File)

The terrorist group is trying to accomplish this objective in the peninsula by continually assaulting the Egyptian security forces, assassinating Egyptian authorities, placing roadblocks and persecuting the Coptic Christians.

 

Israeli tourists in Sinai (Photo: Sharon Gabai)
Israeli tourists in Sinai (Photo: Sharon Gabai)

 

These activities have already spread to the central part of the peninsula, proving that ISIS can continue to extend their reach southward.

 

ISIS militants checking cars in Sinai (File photo)
ISIS militants checking cars in Sinai (File photo)

 

Another aspect of the change is manifested as the group's new head of the Sinai extension, Abu Hajar al-Shami—an extremely religious non-Bedouin radical.

 

In addition to that, Salafi radicals are now trickling from Gaza, mainly because they feel that the Hamas is not radical enough. It is reported that dozens of them already made their way to ISIS's branch in the peninsula, bringing with them experience they accumulated in the strip.

 

Tourist area: Israelis in huts in Sinai (Photo: Yael Ponizovsky-Bergelson)
Tourist area: Israelis in huts in Sinai (Photo: Yael Ponizovsky-Bergelson)

 

As of right now, ISIS's forces in the Sinai area are estimated at about 700 combatants. On the Egyptian side, things are looking rough. In 2016 about 700 soldiers in the Egyptian security forces stationed in Sinai were killed by ISIS attacks, most often by road-side explosive charges.

 

However, this was not free of reprisal. A change can be seen recently in the Egyptian behavior, with more activities to stop smuggling from Gaza, aimed at damaging ISIS's supply lines.

 

(Photo: Yael Ponizovsky-Bergelson)
(Photo: Yael Ponizovsky-Bergelson)

 

But this did not put an end to the terrorist group's activities, and it appears that Egypt has yet to fully develop their counter-terrorism capabilities.

 

And so, ISIS's branch in Sinai still considers the Egyptian regime as their main enemy, but there is no doubt that Israel has climbed the ranks and become a much larger target for the group.

 

ISIS militants in Sinai (File)
ISIS militants in Sinai (File)

 

The joining of Salafi combatants from Gaza, instilled with the hate of Israel, is one of the reasons for that, but another reason is the growing feeling within the extension, which is shown in the publication, the belief that Israel is aiding Egypt in the fight against them.

 

For now, Israelis would be well-advised to heed the Counter-Terrorism Bureau and stay away from the peninsula, at least until the ISIS threat there subsides.

 

(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)

 

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