Egyptian military consolidates grip on northern Sinai

“The military has secured large areas of the strategic stretch of land bordering Palestinian-run Gaza and Israel on one side and the Suez Canal on the other, and is no longer on the back foot, witnesses, security sources and analysts say.

Civilian life is still severely curtailed but the long-neglected region is changing as the state forges ahead with development schemes.

Many of the militants have been killed, fled or surrendered. As few as 200 are still active, down from 400 two years ago and 800 in 2017, according to three Egyptian security sources.

In place of big attacks, they increasingly depend on snipers, homemade bombs and mortars.

On the outskirts of North Sinai’s main city Al Arish, near where razed olive farms once stood, the government has built new apartment blocks.

A resident said people just sought a return to normality.

“We’ve had enough,” said the man in his 50s, declining to be named. “We want to return to our houses or even the new ones they are building. We want to live in peace again.”

Egyptian authorities did not respond to a request for comment on the situation in North Sinai.”

“Unrest roiled northern Sinai following the uprising in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak in 2011, escalating after the army overthrew President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist, two years later.

In November 2017, the Islamic State-affiliated militant group Sinai Province claimed the most lethal attack in Egypt’s modern history, which killed more than 300 people at a North Sinai mosque, as well as an assassination attempt against the defence and interior ministers at Al Arish military airport.

The military started an operation in response in February 2018 and now appears to be in its strongest position in North Sinai – the only area in Egypt where there is regular militant activity – for at least a decade.”