Gunfire Breaks Out in Sinai as Tensions Rise

The reactive measures taken by the Egyptian military may be avoiding the root of the problem

Gunfire broke out on Thursday in the Sinai Peninsula between armed individuals and Egyptian police, just one day after Egypt’s military sent attack helicopters to the region following a terrorist attack early in the week.

Gunman reportedly fired shots towards a police station in the main administrative center of Egypt’s North Sinai. Whether they were connected somehow to the Islamist group that killed 16 Egyptian broder guards and tried to penetrate Israel’s southern border on Sunday was not clear.

But it did appear to be in retaliation for the Egyptian government’s crackdown on the largely lawless Sinai. Mursi on Wednesday fired the region’s governor and country’s intelligence chief in response to public anger over Sunday’s attack.

Initial reports claiming Egyptian police had fought back against Thursday’s gunfire were later retracted and denied by Egypt’s state television. But Egypt’s armored vehicles were seen driving away from the area and toward the settlement of Sheikh Zuwaid which military aircraft attacked on Wednesday.

The apparent instability could lead to a perception of threat from Israel, which could in turn lead to an even harsher and more violent response by Israel (with, of course, US support). But such measures could worsen the stability of the region and would amount to disregard for the root of the problem. As Egyptian blogger Issandr el Amrani wrote following Sunday’s attacks, “Ending the blockade of Gaza, pushing for Palestinian reconciliation, restoring order in Sinai and addressing its inhabitants’ grievances: this is what has to be done to avoid a repeat of this.”

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