At midnight on Sunday, 16 Egyptian border guards were pronounced dead. One might imagine that they were just sitting together during iftar, enjoying some of Sinai’s tasty dates and milk when unrevealed gunmen abruptly shot them dead. Some of those killed might have even been taking their last bite of bread at that very moment.
Repeated attacks on state institutions in the Sinai Peninsula raise the idea that the area is beginning to shove out Egypt’s security, investigative and administrative institutions. New questions relating to an Egyptian sovereignty over Sinai emerge in every passing hour after the incident.
Despite a perplexing situation in North Sinai, some analyses pinpoint Islamists and Jihadists as the main perpetrators of the assault in an attempt to seize the land and transform it into an Islamic Emirate. This scenario cites similar examples in Southern Algeria, Northern Mali, Southern Yemen, and Northern Pakistan, where Islamist militants have managed to flourish by making use of the loose grip of official state institutions.
Other critics presume that the Israeli side is the only beneficiary of such an incident. Hamas have been also on the suspect list, where some early assumptions suggest that fighters have crossed the secret border tunnels to launch the raid. Some even suggested that Iran may be attempting to create a new front in Sinai using Hamas as a proxy, in anticipation of a possible defeat in Syria.
Without concrete information at hand, a useful analysis hardly exists. But doubting that attackers have originated from the Gaza Strip, some wise observers assert the importance of sidelining the Palestinian people from the attacks. An entire population should not collectively pay the price of an attack to which they most probably have no connection.
The timing, location and magnitude of the assault were all devastating in light of the already fragile security situation in Egypt. However, the official reaction of President Morsy and the newly appointed government, to say the least, did not amount to the level of the events. While Morsy promised the attacks will be retaliated, he did not specify to whom the retaliation shall be directed, and did not even touch upon the short-term crisis management steps. It is, however, fair to allow Morsy a couple more days to assess one of his first serious reactions to a top national security issue.
What is expected from the president in the coming days is to revisit the root causes of the incident, which constitutes a continuum of the series of blasts hitting Sinai since 2004. Some strategic experts find this a rare occasion to address the flaws of the peace treaty with Israel, which paralyzes Egypt from efficiently patrolling the peninsula. Even more importantly, Morsy is expected to react in a transparent manner.