Sinai: States of fear | Mada Masr - 0 views
The militants have also begun to adopt other mundane state postures. The main road between Arish and Rafah is usually closed to civilians, forcing them to take side roads studded with checkpoints — some manned by the military, others by the militants. Some of the militants’ checkpoints are stationed just a few kilometers away from the army’s, and are reportedly equipped with computers and internet connections to investigate any passersby.
Sayed, who works with journalists in North Sinai, was stopped and beaten at a militant-operated checkpoint between Arish and Rafah several weeks ago. Sayed was on the road with four Egyptian journalists, and two military tanks were driving ahead of them. The tanks turned shortly before Sayed found himself faced with the militants’ checkpoint.
“I told them, ‘Be careful, there are military tanks nearby.’ They said, ‘We’re not here for them, we’re here for you’,” he recounts.
Sayed and the journalists were shot at and physically assaulted, then released. He hid his companions’ press IDs, and said they worked for the sympathetic Al Jazeera satellite network based in Qatar.
“If they knew the journalists were from an Egyptian newspaper, none of us would have made it out alive,” he claims.
Fouad is a coffee shop owner who recently relocated to Arish after the army evacuated the residents of Rafah to dig a buffer zone to deter terrorists. He explains that one time the militants collected everyone’s IDs at a checkpoint, but remained respectful because they didn’t suspect anyone.
“The militants never hurt us or raise an arm in our face. They don’t scare us,” says an old woman from the village of Muqataa, a militant stronghold near Sheikh Zuwayed.
“They have no interest in alienating the other residents, because they live among them and don’t want them to turn into collaborators with security,” Fathy explains.
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While no one knows the exact composition or origins of the different militant groups based in Sinai, many believe past state crackdowns on the area might have fueled their growth.
While visiting his cousin in Cairo’s Tora prison in 2005, Fathy met Kamal Allam, who would later become a key militant in the Tawheed and Jihad group in Sinai. At the time, police had randomly arrested hundreds of men from the peninsula after several tourist sites were bombed in South Sinai.
Allam was in custody on drug charges, and was limping due to injuries sustained from torture. He told Fathy, “I wouldn't wish what I'm going through even on an apostate.”
After spending his time in prison among Islamist detainees, Allam escaped from his cell during the 2011 revolution when the police retreated from their posts. He was among the first to attack police stations in North Sinai between January 25 and January 28 of that year. In January 2014, the Ministry of Interior announced Allam had been killed in a military campaign south of Rafah.
Fathy explains that the expansion of terrorist networks in Sinai is mainly stimulated by the desire to retaliate against police brutality, and less by a deep-rooted jihadist doctrine
many of those who suffered during the ongoing security crackdown were easy to recruit. Many people — especially those from the most impoverished areas in the peninsula’s center and eastern edge — are also joining the militias to make money after losing work in the stymied smuggling trade
Madiha, a middle-aged widow from Muqataa, sits in the small shed she relocated to three months ago. She now lives in the Masaeed neighborhood in southern Arish, one of the few places that residents still consider relatively safe.
Muqataa was the target of some of the military’s most vicious operations. In the first raid in mid-2013, military forces stormed her house. The troops shot between the legs of her 12-year-old daughter to force her to report on the area’s militants. They then used Madiha and her three children as human shields, she claims, forcing them to walk in front of the soldiers as they ventured into the fields.
Reports of civilian deaths have been corroborated by human rights groups conducting research in the area, though no reports have been published yet.
These deaths are the brutal, immediate cost of the state’s war on terrorists. But there is also a more prolonged, quotidian cost that North Sinai residents must pay.
Rafah had been under curfew since the summer of 2013, but in October 2014, the government announced a three-month curfew that stretched to Arish. On January 25, 2015, area residents gathered to celebrate the curfew’s end — only to find out it would be extended.
The streets of Arish are now lined with cafes and restaurants shuttered by the slump in business, and many workers lost their jobs when the curfew eliminated evening shifts.
Instead of bolstering a sense of security, the war on terror and increased militarization have fostered an extended state of fear in North Sinai
Courthouse News Service - 1 views
The video opens with bearded men traveling in a pickup truck, flying the black IS flag with its distinctive white calligraphy. The driver of the truck pulls up beside another car and honks for the other driver’s attention. The IS guy in the passenger seat leans out the window and asks him, in Hebrew with a comically exaggerated Arabic accent, “Hey bro, how do you get to Jerusalem?” The driver of the car shouts back (in Israeli Hebrew), “Take a left!”
Then there’s the slogan, in red Hebrew letters emblazoned on a gray, bullet-marked background: “THE LEFT WILL SURRENDER TO TERROR.”
One of the IS guys fires celebratory bullets skyward and the driver peels off, ostensibly in the direction of Jerusalem, as they all shout exultantly in Arabic, “Shukran, ya ward!” (“Thanks, bro!”). The camera pans briefly to the rear of the truck to focus on a popular Israeli bumper sticker that reads, “Anyone but Bibi.”
The tagline: “It’s us, or them. Only the Likud. Only Netanyahu.”
The snatch of Arabic rap lyrics is excerpted from a song by an Amman-based Palestinian group called Torabyeh: “I want to be buried in the same cemetery that my grandfather was buried in. And since my childhood I’ve been dreaming to be a soldier and as time passed I discovered who I want to belong to: Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah, Hamas or…Jabha …”
Netanyahu has for years been promoting his message about the threat to Israeli security posed by Islamic extremism, never missing an opportunity to list Hamas along with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and even Fatah, mixing them all up so that the average Israeli Jew reflexively associates Arabs and Islam with terror. Like all accomplished populists, he understands the power of repeating a mendacious slogan, and he is an expert at exploiting popular fears and racism.
The popular Israeli narrative is so reactionary and confused these days, that if one were to walk the streets asking average citizens if there was a difference between Fatah and Al Qaeda, most people would be hard-pressed to answer coherently. Go ahead and try to explain to an Israeli audience that Hamas is a small offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, that it is basically a technocratic political party, that it is extremely unpopular in Gaza and that it has nothing to do with expansionist jihadism. Try telling people that if Israel would lift the siege on Gaza, disgruntled Palestinians in Gaza would probably kick Hamas out of power immediately. Just try. The best you can hope for is that you’d be told that you’re a traitor who should go live in Gaza.