Egypt cleaning up ‘Down Under’.

Egypt has been fighting a losing battle in the Sinai for a number of years now.

With the overthrow of  Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 conflict the country became increasingly unstable and it created a security issue in the Sinai peninsula. Radical Islamic terrorists  in Sinai seized the opportunity and launched several waves of attacks on Egyptian military and commercial facilities.

Insurgency attacks increased and insurgents constantly disrupted Egyptian gas supply to the entire region by  attacking the Arab Gas Pipeline, running into Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and its offshoot from al-Arish to Israel  .

In July 2011, militants staged attacked on an Egyptian police station in El-Arish  killing six.

In August 2011, a group claiming to be the Sinai wing of Al-Qaeda declared its intention to create an Islamic caliphate in the Sinai. After that the military launched a campaign in the Sinai Peninsula to confront the Islamist terrorists and the many criminal gangs in order to restore law and order.

Islamist insurgents had been attacking the Egyptian security forces in the Sinai and using the area as a base from which to attack Israel since early 2011.

Slaughter: The scene in Sinai following the killing of 25 police officers by militants near Egypt’s border with Gaza. credit:

On 5 August 2012 a Egyptian military base in the Sinai Peninsula was ambushed by a group of armed men , killing 16 Egyptian soldiers and stealing two Egyptian armored cars, and then infiltrating into Israel. The attackers rammed through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel, while one of the vehicles exploded.

The attackers then engaged in a firefight with soldiers of the IDF and six attackers were killed during the firefight. The 35 attackers dressed as Bedouins and attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

This attack triggered a crackdown by the Egyptian Army including the Army Police special forces and the Air Force, sweeping the Sinai Peninsula for Jihadist militants killing a good number of them.

These jihadist attacks continued in big number right through to 2015 and is well worth reading the Wikipedia link.

Most security operations have been largely confined to the 40-kilometre area between Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, extending northward toward Rafah along the border with Israel and up to the Karam Abu Salem crossing. In most operations, the gunmen use four-wheel drive vehicles and combinations of light and heavy weaponry. However, in three recent attacks RPG-7 launchers were used, most likely smuggled from Libya. The G-7 grenade is capable of penetrating armoured vehicles.   Additionally 343 tunnels on the border between Egypt and Gaza at Rafah have been destroyed.

Since this time there have been suicide bombings, rockets launched, 100s murdered and not a word in the media about it with huge operations to take out these militants..

In February 2015  Egyptian border guards announced they had discovered the ‘Mother of all tunnels in North Sinai’ . The tunnel was some 2,500 metres long and three meters deep.

After a large attack in October 2014 Israel’s NRG News reported that Cairo had declared a state of emergency in the area,  closed down the Rafah crossing from Gaza and cancelled indirect cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas. Egypt now says it will build a wall to block smuggling with the coastal enclave.

The Egyptian government had clearly had enough.

The Egyptian government is set to implement a 5km-long buffer zone as one of the security measures taken in the peninsula which also requires the relocation of residents living along the Rafah border.

The first phase of the buffer zone, which covers 500 metres, will ensure the destruction of all the tunnels. The armed forces have initiated the evacuation process of the second phase, which covers an additional 500 metres.

Clearly this wasn’t enough.

In early August there was a report that Egypt was digging massive water reservoirs in order to destroy the smuggling tunnels running into Gaza in an effort to stop cross-border smuggling by Islamist militants.

The army began the work in August in the area designated by Jerusalem and Cairo for a buffer zone. So far, pits totalling a thousand metres in length have already been dug, reaching depths of up to 20 meters.

The military also started pumping sea water from the Mediterranean into the reservoirs through huge hoses and pumps, in order to increase the water’s filtration into the depths of the soil.

According to the report,

as the water drained into the soil the army pumped in more water to ensure that the earth deep beneath the reservoirs would become completely saturated.

The military’s goal, Al Jazeera said,

is to completely immerse the underground tunnels, causing their collapse by loosening up the surrounding soil, and making it impossible to dig future tunnels.

The flooded area would be would eventually be converted into 18 fish farms along the 14-kilometer border with Gaza, making the digging of new underground tunnels impossible.

This project was led by Egyptian authorities as an alternative to digging a massive water canal along Egypt’s entire border with Gaza. The canal concept was scrapped after the Egyptian Army’s Engineer Corps said it would be insufficient for the intended purpose.

The Egyptian military on Friday morning began pumping sea water into the underground cross-border tunnels dug between its Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip which appears to be a renewed campaign to stamp out terror activity along the border.

Palestinian security officials told the German news agency DPA the operation was part of an effort to stop cross-border smuggling by Islamist militants to and from the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

According to the report, large pipes extending from the Mediterranean Sea flooded the Sinai-Gaza border area with sea water, enabling Egyptian officials to destroy the tunnels without having to know their exact locations.

On September the 19th it was widely reported that The Egyptian army had started flooding tunnels between the Gaza strip and the Sinai Peninsula the previous day using water from the Mediterranean Sea.

“The Egyptian army started at 1:00 o’clock local time (23:00 GMT) pumping water from the Mediterranean Sea using huge pipes,” Abo Mohamed, a tunnel owner, told Anadolu Agency.

Abo Mohamed, who refused to divulge his full name, added that Palestinian tunnels’ owners attempted to save dozens of tunnels from collapsing using water suction pumps, but the pumps were not able to handle the large amount of water being pumped. 

Claiming that the tunnels are being used for militant activities, Egypt’s military laid enormous pipes to flood tunnels with water after pumping water from the Mediterranean into reservoirs.

The mechanism will result in inundating the tunnels with water without having to find their exact location, an anonymous Palestinian source told Anadolu Agency.

Gazans inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 18, 2015. credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90.







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