Sinai Bedouin revolt continues, 25 Egyptian police killed in clashes
Clashes between insurgent Bedouin and Egyptian border police in central Sinai Friday, Nov. 14, left 25 Egyptians dead. No figures were immediately available on Bedouin casualties. The armed insurrection erupted Saturday, Nov. 7, when Egyptian troops posted at the Nitzana border post opened fire on a suspected drug smugglers’ truck, killing the Bedouin driver.
Hundreds of armed tribesmen in pick-up trucks bent on revenge – mostly Tarabin, Azazme and Tihama members – swarmed to the scene and began shooting up the Egyptian border guards. Around 1,000 besieged Egyptian positions along the Sinai-Israeli border south of Rafah. They took dozens of Egyptians hostage, including a general. The Bedouin siege force gained supporters from across the Sinai desert as the outbreak assumed the form of an organized uprising when their chief commander handed the Egyptian officers a list of eight demands:
1. All Bedouin incarcerated in Egypt or Sinai must be unconditionally released,
2. Court sentences passed by Egyptian courts against Bedouin, some in absentia, must be annuled.
3. Egyptian security operations in the Sinai Peninsula must honor Bedouin customs,
4. Egyptian officers and troops guilty of crimes against the Bedouin population should be prosecuted.
5. Egyptian officers proved to have violated the Sinai population’s social fabric must be fired.
6. Cairo must formally recognize Bedouin property rights over their places of habitation and grazing lands.
7. Egypt must funnel funds to ease poverty and unemployment in the Peninsula.
8. A comprehensive three-year development plan for all of Sinai.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources note that many Bedouin were hunted down and detained by Egyptian police after the string of al Qaeda terrorist attacks against tourists and Egyptians in Sinai between 2004 and 2006 and accused of complicity. Tourists were warned off the scenic peninsula in recent years, taking with them jobs and aggravating Bedouin poverty. Land ownership is a sore point for the semi-nomatic desert tribesmen. Some of their lands on the enchanting Sinai coasts have been impounded for hotel operators. The Bedouin are increasingly hostile to the Egyptian authorities and simmer on the brink of insurrection.
This turbulence also poses hazards for Israel. With Egyptian border police out of action on the Sinai-Israeli border, debkafile‘s military sources warn that the way is wide open for large-scale Palestinian terrorist elements to slip across into Israel for terrorist attacks.