Friday, July 19, is the day Egypt has appointed for launching its biggest military campaign since the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel – only this time, the two former antagonists will be fighting a common enemy together.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources disclose that the campaign has been dubed Fattah 2 (Conquest 2), signifying the objective to conquer anew the lawless Sinai Peninsula from the grip of an alliance of armed Salafist Bedouin, al Qaeda affiliates, Muslim Brotherhood operatives and Hamas.
Our sources further revealed that American and Israeli satellites mapped the Salafist and al Qaeda hideouts and strongholds in the peninsula. After decoding, they were handed to the Egyptian strategists planning the campaign.
The war arena spans northern Libya through western Egypt past the Suez Canal to encompass the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip up to the Israeli border.
Initial war operations are already in progress as armed Islamists escalate their attacks on Egyptian targets in Sinai to 30 strikes a day.
The Egyptian military reported Thursday that a security operation carried out by the armed forces in northern Sinai in the past 48 hours led to the deaths of 10 jihadists, after three Egyptian policemen were killed in separate overnight attacks.
Israeli drones have been flying over northern Libya to identify and destroy Libyan Al Qaeda targets associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Libyan al Qaeda targeted for abetting Muslim Brotherhood
Egyptian fighter planes are attacking and destroying weapons convoys on tip-offs from Israeli surveillance drones, which report the convoys’ progress from Libya into Egypt towards the cities of the Suez Canal.
Egyptian Apache gun ships are flying over Gaza airspace ready to pounce on suspect Hamas movements toward the Gaza Strip’s southern border with Sinai.
At the same time, DEBKA Weekly's military sources report that Wednesday, July 17, several hundred armed operatives from Hamas’s military wing, the Izz-e-din Al-Qassam Brigades, headed out of the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border town. They were believed planning to attack the Egyptian military engineers demolishing smuggling tunnels between Sinai and Gaza and join Salafi fighters assaulting Egyptian forces in northern and central Sinai.
Ahead of Fattah 2, the Rafah border between Gaza and Sinai was closed. In the next stage of the war, Egypt will very likely draw on Israeli military and intelligence back-up to strike Palestinian forces on their way to attack.
Washington first accused Egypt and Israel of exaggerating the scale of the threat. However, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was able to prove to the visiting US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, with the help of maps, aerial photos and documents, that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, with the knowledge of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, had established machinery for military action in defiance of a military coup, which they expected from the moment they took power in mid-2012.
Muslim Brotherhood set up three centers for defying military rule
That contingency system consisted of three pivotal centers:
One was set up at the Libyan Mediterranean port of Tobruk near the Egyptian border, making use of the Libyan Justice and Construction Party (Hizb Al-Adala Wal-Bina), which is the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Its leader is Mohamed Sowan of Misurata and its spokesman is Mohamed Gaair.
The pair undertook to set in stocks of weapons for the use of their Egyptian brethren in the event of a clash with the Egyptian army. According to DEBKA Weekly's intelligence sources, the arsenals were located in three Libyan towns, Tripoli, Benghazi and Zintan.
After the Brotherhood was unseated on July 3, these stores were unsealed and the arms loaded on unmarked Libyan trucks for transport to Cairo, Suez Canal cities and Sinai.
A second pivotal center of action was set up by the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Suez on the Suez Canal for two purposes: as a base for launching operations against Canal shipping to demonstrate Egyptian army incompetence as guardians of the key waterway; and as a liaison center with Hamas in Gaza and the Salafists in Sinai.
The third center was established in the Gaza Strip, based on the Palestinian Hamas’s pledge of all its military resources, manpower and smuggling facilities for aiding the Brotherhood’s uprising against the Egyptian army.
Preventing the rise of an Islamist enclave along the Tobruk-Gaza coastal strip
El-Sisi told Burns why the coming war had to be a joint Egyptian-Israeli effort requiring the doubling of resources for the difficult task ahead. If the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in its plan, the entire coastal plain along the Mediterranean seashore, stretching from Gaza to Tobruk, would become an Islamist enclave and home for Al Qaeda elements. Not only would Egypt and the Suez Canal be imperiled, but Israel as well.
Burns answered that the US had already deployed for any emergencies two US amphibious craft with 2,600 Marines in the Red Sea off the southern coast of Egypt: USS Kearsarge with 1,800 Marines and USS San Antonio with 800 marines. These ships carry a fleet of helicopters for landing Marines forces at distant destinations.
More Marine contingents are stationed at the Sigonella base in Italy and Moron in Spain. Their commanders are on orders to move at 60 minutes notice.
Israel also notified Washington of its plans for fighting Islamist terror in Sinai in partnership with the Egyptian army. Both partners, say DEBKA Weekly's military sources, are determined to go through with their campaign to pursue the forces of al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis and Hamas until they are subdued.