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https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B64cockRxIaKeklmNlJvOTRFV2c/view Sinaï Report ________ September 2017 COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES IN THE SINAI PENINSULA BASSEM A. YOUSSEF EL-TELAWY & AHMED A. MOHAMMED NOOR El-DIN 2 COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES IN THE SINAI PENINSULA BASSEM A. YOUSSEF EL-TELAWY & AHMED A. MOHAMMED NOOR El-DIN FOREWORD This report seeks to propose a different perspective of the conflict than that presented by the media and classic analysis. Following long research and collection of testimonies from local sources, this report will attempt to depict an image of the security situation [in the Sinai] which close to the reality. Introduction The Sinai Peninsula covers an area of 60,088 square kilometers. Its topography varies from north to south and from east to west. The central region is home to chains of mountainous areas, valleys, plateaus, and sand dunes. The north differs in that it has vast areas used for agriculture and dense vegetation making it similar to a forest in some locations, while in others, the north seems like a mostly open, bare land with no features except sand dunes. __________ The Sinai has been a scene of terrorist operations for more than thirteen years. The first signs erupted in October 2004, when a series of simultaneous explosions targeted the resort cities of Taba and Nuweiba resulting in casualties among both foreign tourists and Egyptian citizens. In the aftermath of the attack several anonymous groups claimed responsibility but the most credible claim was that of Kataib (brigades) Abdullah Azzam. This group, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, is known to be one of the branches of al-Qaeda, which carried out operations in Egypt, the Arabian Gulf and the Levant. As for its name, the group is attributed to Abdullah Azzam, Palestinian national and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and one of the most prominent militant leaders in Afghanistan at the time of the Soviet occupation. He was killed on November 24th, 1989 with his sons Mohammed and Ibrahim, after his car was blown up in a mysterious assassination. After Taba and Nuweiba explosions the Egyptian security forces launched an operation to track down the perpetrators. They succeeded in arresting a number of elements involved in the planning and execution of the attacks. Several other terrorist attacks targeted the Sinai in the following two years. The resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh fell victim to another series of bombings on July 23rd, 2005. The city's old market and the Mövenpick Hotel were targeted simultaneously with two improvised explosive devices; a car bomb and an explosive device stored in a backpack. The Naama Bay resort was struck by a suicide bomber in a rigged truck as well. The attack claimed the lives of 88 people and left over 200 injured, the majority of whom were Egyptians. Kataib Abdullah Azzam claimed responsibility for the attack. As for 2006, three explosions shook the resort city of Dahab on April 24th, Killing 23 and injuring 62 people, the majority of which were again Egyptian. Although various groups were linked to or claimed responsibility for these attacks one name was repeatedly involved. The infamous Tawheed and Jihad were always either directly 5 linked or thought to be associated in some capacity. The organization was founded in the nineties by Khaled Mas'ed. Mas'ed was killed in 2005 near the village of Mahdya south of Rafah as a result of security operations that followed the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings. Tawheed and Jihad are still linked to terrorism in the Sinai today, almost three decades after their foundation. Their influence on operations and groups throughout the years can lend credence to the claim that they are the origin of all contemporary terrorist activity in the Sinai. The prison breaks around the 25th of January Revolution and the following security collapse had allowed several imprisoned Tawheed and Jihad members to escape. Naturally they returned to the Sinai and began the creation of new organizations. These new groups began operating as early as late 2011 and throughout 2012 by sabotaging gas pipelines, launching cross border raids, and carrying out the first mass casualty attack on an Egyptian Border Guards position. Their operations continued in 2013 and ramped up after the 30th of June Revolution. They really began to assert their presence after the formation of the Mujahideen Shura Council in Aknaf Beit al-Maqdiss which eventually went on to form Ansar Beit al-Maqdiss which swore allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014 after a brutal attack on a security forces checkpoint at Karm al-Kawades. 6 PROMINENT TERROR ATTACKS IN NORTHERN SINAI ____________________________________________________ Karm al-Kawades attack Location: Karm al-Kawades southeast of al- Arish City southwest of Sheikh Zuweid City Date: October 25, 2014 Event: Attack on Karm al-Kawades military checkpoint The attack on the Karm al-Kawades checkpoint is considered a turning point for terrorist operations in Northern Sinai, it signified a radical shift in the nature of these operations on the ground since it was the first to emulate the guerrilla tactics developed on the Iraqi and Syrian grounds. The attack was carried out in three phases: - The initial phase included the use of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED) in the form of a truck loaded with hundreds of kilograms of high explosive material packed in to shrapnel creating metal containers. The result was an explosion which destroyed the majority of the checkpoint's defensive preparations and positions. This was then followed by mortar and machine gun fire to neutralize the checkpoint for the second phase; the assault. - The assault was carried out by couple dozen infantrymen equipped with small and medium arms using 4x4 vehicles and motorcycles to advance and maneuver around the checkpoint in order to flank and kill remaining soldiers, most of whom were injured as a result of the first phase. - The third phase was the exploitation of the location followed by looting of ammunition and weapons before withdrawal. In coordination with the previous three phases an additional group of militants was tasked with cutting off reinforcement by placing road side Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and engaging with Quick Reaction Force (QRF) elements on the main supply route to the Karm al-Kawades checkpoint. This was the first attack of its kind in Northern Sinai, hence it is safe to presume that these tactics, their planning and preparation, were reliant on foreign expertise. It is also of note to point out that Egyptian forces were not expecting this type of attack and therefore were not adequately prepared. 29 Egyptian soldiers were martyred in this attack, and others injured. October 2014 is the effective date that terrorist operations transitioned from relative randomness to organized efforts which were thoroughly planned and appropriately prepared for in terms of weapons, equipment, and tactics. 7 Amount of weapons and explosives seized with terrorists involved in Karm al-Kawades attack In response to the attack the Armed Forces took serious steps towards further mobilization in the region and consolidation of its presence in areas affected by terrorist activity, based on a lengthy multi-stage plan. This plan included the deployment of additional forces and units from the 2nd Army to Northern Sinai and from the 3rd Army to Central Sinai. One likes to refer to this as the installation period, as several military checkpoints were set up to spread the forces' presence and control on the ground, while working in tandem with a network of other military checkpoints to deny the terrorists movement on main supply routes, secondary routes, and trails. During this period Northern Sinai witnessed several major operations which are outlined hereafter with relevant publicly available information. Attack on the Battalion 101 Location: al-Dahiya Neighborhood al-Arish City Date: January 29, 2015 Event: Attacks on the 101st Battalion, North Sinai Security Directorate, and Armed Forces Hotel The operation started at 06:45 by targeting the 101st Battalion and Armed Forces Hotel by mortar fire to facilitate the use of a SVBIED water tanker. The water tanker was rigged with several hundred kilograms of high explosive materials in addition to a large quantity of petroleum and metal fragments. The intended result was the creation of an explosion with an enormous amount of concussive force, fire, and shrapnel. The SVBIED penetrated the 101st Battalions camp gate and detonated causing a great deal of human and material loss. This detonation was followed by a second when a terrorist used a rigged micro-bus and explosive belt which compounded the losses. In coordination with the attack on the 101st and Hotel a third SVBIED targeted the nearby Security Directorate resulting in the death of several perimeter security guards and causing heavy damage to the site. The total amount of explosives used in the operation between three SVIEDs was in the range of 10 tons. More than 30 Egyptian soldiers and security forces were martyred in the attack while injuring more than 80 others. 02/04 Attack Location: S h e i k h Z u w e i d C i t y - International Road al-Arish Rafah Date: April 2 , 2015 Event: Attack on Abidat checkpoint and Qabr Emir checkpoint west of Sheikh Zuweid City At 04:00 three coordinated attacks took place across Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid. However, these were only meant as a distraction from the terrorists' main effort; an attack on the neighboring Abidat and Qabr Emir checkpoints. The Qabr Emir checkpoint was at the time fairly new, having been erected only 15 days prior to the attack. The relatively older Abidat checkpoint was situated 2-3 km away. The Abidat checkpoint attack: The checkpoint came under a ferocious attack by terrorist elements just after 4am. The attackers were numerically superior to the forces stationed there; 22 soldiers including one Officer (Lieutenant Mohammed Desouki) and one NCO. The 8 terrorists used four vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns and mortar teams. The checkpoint itself was split into several sectors across a relatively large area. The coordinated terrorist attack flanked the forces and attacked from all directions. A firefight ensued for more than an hour between the checkpoint forces and the attacking terrorists. Eventually the remaining terrorists and soldiers were engaged in close quarters as the attackers used the areas terrain to breach the checkpoint's perimeter. Eventually the attackers were able to breach inside the checkpoint, at which point the exchange turned into a game of cat and mouse. After a while the exchanges claimed the life of Lieutenant Mohamed Desouki, commander of the checkpoint, to a gun shot wound. The attack had martyred sixteen of the 22 soldiers stationed in the checkpoint, with the remaining six eventually retreating to a protective bunker for cover and to return fire. The remaining six returned fire from within the bunker but were low on ammunition, sharing only four magazines among them. The terrorists continued to attack the remaining six soldiers at one point even throwing two grenades into the bunker. 9 1. Location of Karm al-Kawades attack 2. Qabr Emir checkpoint 3. al-Abidat checkpoint 4. al-Bawaba checkpoint 5. Sheikh Zuweid Police Department 6. Abu Tawila checkpoint 7. Sidot checkpoint 8. Abu Rifai checkpoint 9. Sidra Abu al-Hagag checkpoint However, they were unable to cause further casualties. The soldiers continued to cautiously survey and shoot in order to preserve ammunition until they were reinforced. An important point is that the reinforcing Apache helicopters that were on scene to provide close air support were hit by terrorist heavy machine guns, which eventually forced them to return to base. Instead fast jets were deployed to engage with the terrorists and they were able to destroy a couple of their vehicles. The firefight with the checkpoint had killed 20 terrorists not including those killed by subsequent air operations. The Qabr Emir checkpoint: The forces stationed at the checkpoint were able to repel the attacking terrorists causing several fatalities and casualties among them. Battle of Sheikh Zuweid Location: Sheikh Zuweid Date: July 1st, 2015 Event: Large and coordinated attack on multiple checkpoints In the largest confrontation of the conflict, otherwise known as the battle of Sheikh Zuweid. On the first of July 2015 Sinai Province attempted a demonstration of force seeking to control the city. At 06:45 the first mortar shell exploded, targeting a military position in the village of al-Gorah, lead at the time by Lieutenant Colonel Haroun. The mortar bombardment continued using various calibers in order to suppress the position’s ability to provide artillery support to Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, in total over 20 mortar rounds targeted the installation. At 07:00 coordinated SVBIED attacks were launched simultaneously targeting the perimeters of the Sidra Abu al-Hagag and Abu Rifai military positions. At the same time groups of militants targeted positions across Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid in order to pin a large number of troops in their positions, making it difficult for the Armed Forces to counter the main efforts in Sidra Abu al-Hagag and Abu Rifai. The following checkpoints were targeted throughout the day: al-Masora, Sidot, Waley Lafi, al-Wafaq, Abu Tawila, al-Daraib, Garada, al-Isaf, Qabr Emir, al-Abidat, al- Wahshy, al-Shalaq, al-Bawaba, Sheikh Zuweid Police Department and al-Kharuba. In parallel, groups of militants infiltrated S h e i k h Z u w e i d C i t y m o u n t e d o n motorcycles and 4x4 vehicles. They planted road side IEDs while moving through the city to disrupt any reinforcement from the al- Zohur military camp. Back in Abu Rifai and Sidra Abu al-Hagag, following the SVBIED attacks, fierce firefights erupted with dozens of militants using small to medium arms and mortar teams. The firefight moved in to just meters away from the perimeter of the checkpoints, with militants scaling rooftops to engage with 10 Vehicles used by the militants destroyed in the Battle of Sheikh Zuweid small arms alongside vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns in order to suppress the forces stationed there, in preparation for the advance of assaulting infantry. However, the forces halted a series of assaults and caused a large number of casualties among the militants. Fast jets and attack helicopters reinforcement provided close air support, targeting militants and their vehicles which compounded their losses, in addition to freeing the al-Gorah checkpoint which enabled it to conduct fire missions and use its artillery, adding to the militants casualty count as well. Sinai Province's losses on that day were estimated to be over 100 fighters from the 300 that took part in the operation. In addition, they lost over 20 vehicles of various types. By the end of the Egyptian counter attack, that lasted several days, Sinai Province had lost 253 fighters in total. 11 MARTYR’S RIGHT OPERATIONS _____________________________________ After the attack on Sheikh Zuweid (July 1st, 2015) the Armed Forces began staging comprehensive military operations under the codename Martyr’s Right. It signaled the start of a new strategy in Northern Sinai. The operations were undertaken in phases, each with its own set of goals. What differentiates Martyr’s Right from previous operations is the number and composition of forces involved in continuous offensive action over substantial periods of time. Each stage would include the establishment of new checkpoints and military positions to deny militants free movement and to divide the area of operations into small boxes which could be easily monitored and handled. Martyr’s Right 1 The first phase of Martyrs Right was launched at dawn on the 7th of September and lasted for 14 days across the cities of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid, and al-Arich. Forces targeted several villages associated with terrorist activity on the outskirts of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, the most prominent of which were al-Gorah, al- Zawara, al-Mokatea, al-Fitat, al-Mahdya, Naga Shabana, Sidot, al-Masora and al- Mawosin. In this campaign, the Forces established a series of military checkpoints south of Rafah, on the road between the village of al- Masora and the entrance of Rafah and al- Gorah village south of Sheikh Zuweid, passing through al-Mahdya village south of Rafah. This new series of checkpoints were named ‘Easar’ and aimed to monitor and deny movement to takfiri elements. At the end of the first phase of operations, the Armed Forces invited media to visit the city of al-Arich and hosted them at the 101st Battalion's HQ. They were briefed on the goals of Martyrs Right, what was achieved, and what was confiscated. Martyr’s Right 2 They were also informed that the second phase of Martyrs Right had been launched as a follow up to the first phase. It aimed to deal preemptive blows to militants planning attacks on military positions and to consolidate the gains made during the first phase of operations. In March of 2016 a series of coordinated raids were launched by elements from the 2nd and 3rd Armies targeting areas far south of Sheikh Zuweid (al-Gorah, Sahara al- Gamei, Kilo 17, Kilo 21, and al-Bers). - The raids identified and destroyed several hideouts used to provide logistic support to terrorists, including the provision of rations, fuel, and material used in the construction of IEDs. - During the operation a group of militants were spotted at the Kilo 21 point, preparing to attack a military position in the area. 12 Refer to the map p. 17 However, a series of Air Force strikes foiled their plans and lead to the death of several of their fighters and the destruction of several vehicles. - The ground and air campaign launched by the Armed Forces also allowed 17 hostages held by Sinai Province to escape. The second phase of Martyrs Right also included several special operations targeting Sinai Province leadership. - Mohamed Nasser Abu Shahwan was killed in an air strike. He was the leader of Sinai Province in Abu Tawila, al-Akour, al- Shahawin, and al-Sidra. - Towards the end of March forces from the 3rd Army were able to neutralize Mohamed Nasser Madan (Abu Madan). Forces raided his hideout in Wadi al-Lesan, Central Sinai. Upon arrival the forces engaged with militants attempting to cover Abu Madan’s escape. The target temporarily evaded the military by fleeing in a vehicle but after dealing with his protection team the forces pursued and neutralized him. - In April forces from the 3rd Army successfully neutralized Maher Mohammed Ali Salem in the village of Khariza, Central Sinai. - Forces from the 3rd Army were also successful in neutralizing Ali Atallah Salama and Ramadan Salama Ratima, aides to the infamous Sinai Province leader Mohamed Moussa Mohsen who was killed shortly after in an air strike targeting a cave in the mountainous Wadi al-Lesan in Central Sinai, after lengthy operations to track him. - Near the end of the second phase of the operation the Armed Forces dealt perhaps the largest blow at the time to Sinai Province. A large congregation of militants were monitored south of al-Arich, which lead to a series of air strikes that successfully destroyed an ammunition dump, eliminated 45 militants, and more importantly killed the Emir of Sinai Province Abu Dua al-Ansari and several of his aides. Martyr’s Right 3 The third phase of Martyr’s Right began in October 2016 and was the longest of the three offensives, lasting over a month. The third phase began with a series of extensive patrols south of Rafah (al-Wafaq, 13 Locations of the airstrikes that lead to the death of Abu Du’a al-Ansari south al-Arich al-Hasainat, al-Ersal, Yamit, al-Balaa, and Goz Ghanem), and the construction of new permanent positions in those areas. As operations South of Rafah came to an end the Armed Forces moved towards the Southwest of Sheikh Zuweid, beginning by the Tarabin neighborhood and then moving on to Sidra Abu al-Hagag, Abu al-Arag, and finally al-Toma, where forces where able to target several militant cells and destroy several vehicles. Three new military positions were established on the supply routes between al- Toma and the Tarabin neighborhood on the outskirts of Sheikh Zuweid, with the aim of preventing militants from infiltrating the city. The series of positions were named ‘Rami’ in honor of Colonel Rami Hasenen who fell martyred in action in the Sinai. Another series of raids followed, targeting areas southeast of Sheikh Zuweid (al- Mokatea, al-Mahdya, and al-Akour). More positions were established on the strategic al- Sawalha Hill near al-Akour to track and monitor militant movement. Combined results of Martyrs Right: - Killing of 500 terrorists - Destruction of 250 targets (hideouts, staging areas, ammunition dumps, IED factories, logistic stores) - Destruction of 130 different vehicles Clearing Gabal (mountain) al- Halal Terrain: The mountain stretches across 60kms from east to west with a depth of 20km and an altitude of 1700m. It is littered with caves and mountain paths, making it a perfect safe haven for militants as well as criminal elements. The operation to clear the mountain was split into three stages. The first was a coordinated intelligence gathering process in cooperation with local residents and Bedouin tribes. The second was the siege of the mountain after intelligence identified all paths in or out of the area. Supply routes in a perimeter extending 3-5km around the mountain were also heavily monitored. The third phase was launched upon confirmation that militants taking refuge in the area were logistically depleted. In order to achieve the best results, the assault defined separate areas of responsibility with forces tasked to search and clear each of them. The operation lead to the killing of 18 militants and the arrest of 32 others. 29 motorcycles were seized, some of which rigged with improvised explosives, in addition to several caches of high explosives, IED manufacturing material, and various arms. Martyr’s Right 4 On July 13th, 2017, Intel was received that 20 takfiri terrorists were holding a meeting in a building in al-Balaa village, west of Rafah 14 Vehicle used by terrorist with a 14.5mm machine gun destroyed during Martyr’s Right 3 city, not far from Dwar Selim district. The Egyptian Air Force immediately launched a precision strike targeting the meeting location. All takfiri elements in the premises, including a number of commanders, were killed on the spot. The fourth stage of Martyr’s Right was launched on July 7th, 2017 upon reception of intel on the locations of terrorist elements, in remote areas south east of al-Arish city, and south west of Sheikh Zuweid city. This stage started with precision airstrikes targeting multiple terrorist hideouts, meeting points, and operational launching points. The strikes were followed by a land campaign aimed at sweeping the thick vegetation cover south of al-Arish city, used by the terrorists to hide away from the Armed Forces. The land campaign was both the largest and longest, lasting over 14 days, during which the military successfully disrupted the communication and logistics network of takfiris, locating and destroying over 76 terrorists hideout facilities, used as living quarters and equipped with logistical equipment, including communication equipment, first aid kits, explosives, and ammunition. The Armed Forces destroyed over 100 improvised explosive devices (IED) as well as 11 workshops used to manufacture these IEDs. 15 Sheikh Zuweid - al-Gorah: ‘Zelzal’ checkpoints al-Gorah - Rafah: ‘Easar’ checkpoints Rafah - al-Arich International Road: ‘Nimr’ checkpoints al-Toma - Sheikh Zuweid: ‘Rami’ checkpoints A large number of weapons, ammunition, and medical equipment have been seized as well as a number of media centers, equipped with laptops, video cameras, and other media equipment. During these operations, the Armed Forces managed to eliminate 40 terrorists and destroy 20 different types of vehicles, 4 motorcycles and 7 car bombs. Simultaneously, the Armed Forces succeeded in thwarting a terrorist counter attack by remotely destroying an approaching SVBIED south of al-Zohur district, then eliminating terrorist elements awaiting to launch an infantry attack after the explosion of the SVBIED. On August, 21st, 2017, a second land campaign was launched in the localities west of Rafah City, including: Yamit, al-Balaa, East of al-Matla, North of Sidot, Al Masoura, Ghoz Ghanem, Salah al-Din, al- Ahrash, al-Hasainat. The military established a new series of checkpoints on all roads and paths out of the area, to fully encircle terrorists and facilitate monitoring, tracking, and targeting their elements, to prevent any attempt to flee the operation field through the surrounding thick vegetation. On August 23rd, 2017, a third land campaign was launched. It targeted districts and villages south of Rafah City, including: al-Tayrah, Abu Helw, Goz Abu Raad, Naga Sheibana, and outskirts of Mahdya village. As well as the Southern district of Sheikh Zuweid city. The Army evacuated civilians from al- Tayrah village to minimize any risk of collateral damage due to the military campaign and engagement with the terrorists. The evacuation made possible a door to door sweep operation of the village. Simultaneously, the Army established a ring of security checkpoints surrounding al- Tayrah village, and Naga Sheibana, to fully choke the terrorists therein, and foil any attempts of their escape. During these last two campaigns, the Army was able to : - Neutralize twenty one (21) Takfiri terrorists - Destroy eleven (11) vehicles of various types - Discover and destroy three (3) Weapons and ammunition warehouses - Destroy over three hundred fifty (350) explosive devices - Destroy several terrorist surveillance and hideout posts Notably, one of the 21 terrorists neutralized was a prominent commander, namely, Awdah al-Hamadein, and his aids. 16 Workshop used to manufacture IEDs discovered during Martyr’s Right 4 17 Map of the villages in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah Conclusion The terrorist activity in North Sinai has gone through various dynamics in recent years in terms of strategy, attack organisations and even equipment. The launch of Martyr’s Right campaign in 2015 marked a break in the war on terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula, with a complete shift in the nature of operations undertaken either by the military or the militants. Upon completion of this campaign, the Sinai Province faced constant pressure on its supply routes and logistical support, as well as regular elimination of its leadership, and therefore had to adapt. In 2016, despite their diversity and increasing numbers, terrorist attacks used mainly IEDs and sniping, in an attempt to inflict heavy casualties within the security forces, in contrast with more coordinated attacks on military checkpoints in 2014 and until the Battle of Sheikh Zuweid on July 1st, 2015. The increase in number of these attacks during 2016 can be correlated with the multiplicity and longevity of counter-terrorism operations aimed at paralyzing the movement of militants in the region. This correlation was misperceived by many as a failure of Egyptian efforts in the war on terror. However, it must be looked at from a different angle. The complexity of the situation on the ground and the existence of several areas of operation with different strategic stakes and objectives led to the lack of proper, evidence-based analysis. In fact, a poor knowledge of the geographical distribution of villages and checkpoints, as well as a constant generalization of military activities should be pinpointed as the reason behind this misreading. Cooperation between the Armed Forces and Bedouins is another important factor to be taken into account, even though it has not been mentioned in this report. Neglected in the classical analysis of the conflict, this discreet cooperation was highlighted in 2015 by dominant tribal figures such as the businessmen Ibrahim al-Argawi or Moussa al-Dalah al- Tarabini with the aim of upscaling coordination between tribal forces and the government in the war on terror. As a result, in the past two years, the Armed Forces and security agencies have been able to build a true network of informants called ‘manadib’, enabling effective intelligence-gathering in the areas of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and al-Arich. Today, no terrorist infiltration can be carried out in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah without the knowledge of the security forces. This volunteer-based network has repeatedly thwarted terrorist attacks prior to their execution. Sinai Province’s response was the assassination of nearly 300 civilians according to a press release of the group in 2016, and constant threats followed by executions against civilians. The mere concern of the terrorist group with Bedouins collaborating with the armed forces is a proof of the scale and effectiveness of coordination between civilians and security forces in northern Sinai. The first half of 2017 revealed Sinai Province’s decline with a fall in number of attacks in the Northern of the Peninsula, media coverage disturbed following the confiscation of a considerable number of cameras, laptops during the last operations. To avoid an imprecise reading of the situation, here’s a number of villages that used to witness intensified terrorist activity in the past but, following recent military operations, became out of reach of the Sinai Province with no attacks reported in the past 10 months: Abu Tawila, al-Tarabin Neighborhood, Dwar Najd, al-Gorah, Abu Rifai, al-Abidat, Qabr Emir, Karm al-Kawades, al-Kharouba, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah Cities. 18 Moreover, the strengthening of security cooperation between Egyptian authorities and Hamas has allowed an increasingly effective control at the border, and in particular of the smuggling tunnels leading into Rafah that have served as a main supply route and shelter for the militants over the past years. This reconciliation, which could not be expected by any analysts a year ago, has indeed culminated in the establishment of a buffer zone in Gaza along the Egyptian border, with the aim of monitoring the borders and preventing infiltration and smuggling into the Sinai, from the Palestinian side. Meanwhile, in order to adapt to the new situation, Sinai Province was forced to adopt new dynamics. The recent attacks at al-Bers and Bir al-Abd were conducted in areas with no relevant security presence, having experienced very little to no terrorist activity in the past. These two attacks were evidently due to the fact that militants could no longer carry out such operations in their original area of activity, which is the triangle Sheikh Zuweid - al- Gorah and Rafah. Although terrorist activity is sharply declining, military operations are far from over, and further confrontations are expected in the future with the adoption of new methods and strategies. ❇ https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B64cockRxIaKeklmNlJvOTRFV2c/view