Israeli-Egyptian collusion in Sinai 'running through special structure'

Israeli-Egyptian collusion in Sinai 'running through special structure', as Sisi acknowledges military cooperation
2 min read
07 January, 2019
Israel has created special intelligence and military units to handle military cooperation with Egypt in the Sinai, against insurgent groups and to prevent arms reaching Hamas.
Israel and Egypt coordinating through special structure in Sinai [AFP]
Israel is operating special intelligence and military units to handle military cooperation with Egypt in Sinai against insurgent groups, sources in Cairo have revealed, and to prevent weapons reaching Hamas in Gaza. It comes as Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made a rare acknowledgement of close security cooperation with Israel in the peninsula, during an interview broadcast on Sunday.

The Israeli army created a special brigade for counter-terror operations in Sinai as well as an ad-hoc intelligence unit reporting to the Shin Bet security agency, well-placed Egyptian sources told The New Arab's Arabic edition. He added that all coordination with Egypt on Sinai issues takes place through this structure.

One of the major operations conducted jointly between Israel and Egypt through this structure was the assassination of the Sinai's local Islamic State group commander, Abu Duaa al-Ansari, in August 2016, according to the sources.

The covert Israeli Sinai coordination structure was created in late 2013 when Sisi was defence minister, the sources said.

The revelations come as Sisi aknowledged close cooperation with Israel in military operations in the Sinai, during an interview with CBS

Responding to a question whether the cooperation was the closest and deepest that he has had with Israel, Sisi said: "That is correct."

"The air force sometimes needs to cross to the Israeli side. And that's why we have a wide range of coordination with the Israelis," Sisi said, according to a transcript provided by CBS.

Due to tough questions and Sisi gaffes, the interview has proven embarassing to the Egyptian regime which has tried to pressure CBS to take if off the air.

On Sunday, Israeli website Walla claimed the Egyptian-Israeli coordination goes beyond anti-jihadist operations and also targets arms smuggling to Hamas.

In February last year, A New York Times report exposed Israeli drone strikes in the Sinai had been secretely approved by Cairo as part of the coordination.

Egyptian security forces have been battling Islamist militants in the Sinai for years, but the violence spread and intensified in 2013 after the military under Sisi's command overthrew Mohammed Morsi, a freely-elected Islamist president.

The region is now home to a powerful Islamic State group affiliate that has claimed a number of huge attacks, including on troops and police, infrastructure and civilians.

Cairo has been accused of a heavy-handed response to a clampdown in the Sinai, ranging from the displacement of civilians to shoot-to-kill orders for security forces, none of which have contained the insurgency.