The ‘Arab Spring’ has brought anarchy to the northern Sinai peninsula. The overthrow of Mubarak has unleashed Jihadist groups that now roam the area with impunity–Jihadists who are even more conservative than the Salafists who have as their goal an Egypt governed by Shari’a Law.
The Jihadists are spearheaded by the group Takfir-wal Higra that was founded by Shukri Mustafa in the 1970s after splintering off from the Muslim Brotherhood. Fighting for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, the Takfiris are rampaging through this part of the Sinai on motorcycles and in pickup trucks adorned with the Jihadi black flag and armed to the hilt with RPGs, machine guns, and hand grenades.
According to Egyptian police, the Takfiris consist of Egyptians, foreign fighters including Palestinians (who have come into the Sinai after Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza), and disaffected Bedouins.
Two weeks ago (on July 29), at least 150 Takfiris attacked the Sinai capital of El-Arish killing seven people and injuring more than 30. They attacked the police station with rockets and mortars and proceeded to occupy the town. The Egyptian military and police retreated inside their barracks and stations and left the town to the Takfiris. The Takfiris returned to the desert at nightfall.
The next day the Takfiris attacked the al-Shulaq terminal of the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline just north of Al-Arish firing rockets at the terminal until it caught fire–halting the flow of gas for the fifth time since Mubarak was ousted. This particular attack has crippled the terminal and brought the flow of gas to Israel (and Jordan) to a standstill for the foreseeable future.
The worry of course for Israel is that the anarchy in the Sinai will spill over into Israel–a worry that has led to a beefing up of IDF positions all along the Egyptian border.