Egypt’s battle against DAESH is in full swing with Operation Sinai 2018, begun February 9. An attack on April 14 against an army camp in central Sinai, in which eight Egyptian soldiers were killed, demonstrated that DAESH retains operational capabilities in the Sinai Peninsula. However, the death, on April 18, of Nasser Abu Zaqoul, the head of “Sinai Province”, the DAESH affiliate in central Sinai, represented a major blow to the group.
Operation Sinai 2018 began in order to fulfill a pledge from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to eradicate DAESH from the Sinai Peninsula and target terrorist groups across the country. Almost all army units are participating in the operation, which includes aerial bombardments and ground attacks on DAESH hideouts, mostly in North Sinai.
DAESH’s actions in Egypt intensified since the beginning of 2018, especially in the context of the difficult economic situation and the inter-sectarian conflicts in the country. DAESH’s modus operandi consists of either direct, assumed actions in the Sinai Peninsula, or through independent cells that are formed including among the Muslim Brotherhood.
To counter DAESH’s actions, the Egyptian authorities are using direct military campaigns, as well as cooperating with local Sinai Peninsula tribes (al-Turabin, al-Sawaraka, al-Massaed, al-Qaliat, al-Bayadiya).
In the military context, Operation Sinai was to have been completed by the end of February, but on February 26, Army Chief of Staff Mohamed Farid Hegazi requested an extension of the campaign, given the complexity of the mission and the difficulty of rooting out DAESH from the mountainous Sinai Peninsula.
While previous DAESH operations were limited to North Sinai – with Central Sinai being considered a buffer zone between ISIS elements in the North and South Sinai, which contains the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and billions of dollars of tourist investments – Egypt’s fear is that military operations in North Sinai could push DAESH and other militant groups to seek targets in central and south Sinai.
As for the Sinai tribal leaders, they have denied supporting DAESH and its “Sinai Province”, even though the militants operate in tribal territory and many active fighters and supporters come from Sinai’s tribes. In 2015, the Sinai Tribal Union recommended that tribes should deny protection to their members involved in militancy. The tribal leaders also pledged to cooperate with the Egyptian armed forces and to recruit youths from among the Sinai clans to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to the army in advance of and during military operations. However, the authorities are also aware of the risk of tribal and clan rivalries, as well as independent interests of their collaborators, that may, for example, lead to identified targets being not militant threats but a competitor smuggling ring.

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