Facts at a glance:
- ISIS in Egypt started out targeting Israeli targets, such as Israeli pipelines carrying gas between Israel, Egypt, and Jordan.
- The most dominant terrorist organizations in the Sinai have ties to Hamas. ISIS fighters train in Gaza before returning to the Sinai. Hamas helps with training, medical care, transferring funds, and assisting with communications.
- In 2012, the Egyptian Army started Operation Sinai to destroy tunnels between Hamas in Gaza and militants in Sinai. These same tunnels were used to smuggle weapons into Gaza to attack Israel.
- Top ISIS leaders have repeatedly threatened major attacks against Israel. We take their threats seriously.
Israel’s border with Egypt has long been volatile, with terror groups shaking the stability in Northern Sinai. Our newest threat in the region is an offshoot of a deadly international terror organization: ISIS in the Sinai. The terror capabilities of ISIS’s Sinai branch cannot be ignored. Their shootings, bombings, projectiles, and other attacks have killed both civilians and soldiers. Israel has always been a primary target of the group from its inception. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (ABM) and their anti-Israel rhetoric has only increased since their incorporation into the Islamic State.
The situation in the Sinai has undergone serious changes over the last five years. Here are some key points in the evolution of the ISIS threat in the Sinai:
A number of homegrown Salafi terror groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula – some of them allied with Al-Qaeda and jihadi groups in Gaza – take advantage of the upheaval after the ousting of then-president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, in 2011. They form Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, or “Supporters of Jerusalem.” In 2011, they focus their attacks on Israeli targets, including oil pipelines running from Egypt to Israel and Egyptian security forces.
From August 14-15, Egyptian forces launch Operation Eagle, targeting Islamists in Northern Sinai.
August 18 – Twelve militants split into four groups carry out multiple cross-border attacks on Highway 12 in Israel near the Egyptian border. The militants first opened fire on a public bus. Several minutes later, a bomb was detonated near an IDF patrol. In a third attack, an anti-tank missile was fired at a civilian vehicle, killing four Israelis. In total, eight Israelis and five Egyptian soldiers were killed in the attack.
Israel begins constructing a new, 152 mile, 19.7 foot-high security fence along the entire Egyptian border.
August 5 – Militants stormed an Egyptian military outpost, killing more than 15 Egyptian soldiers, and capturing an armored personnel carrier and a truck filled with explosives. Both vehicles then headed towards Israel. The truck exploded at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Egypt border. The APC continued on before it was targeted by IDF forces .
August 7 – Egyptian forces launch Operation Sinai in order to eliminate terror cells, protect the Suez Canal, and destroy the tunnels linking terror groups in the Sinai and Gaza. This operation is ongoing.
September 21 – Three members of Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, armed with explosive belts, rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, advance on an uncompleted area of the security fence. The militants open fire on IDF soldiers guarding the fence workers. In the firefight, 20-year-old Corporal Netanel Yahalomi, of the Artillery Corps, is wounded, and later dies of his wounds.
The new Sisi government aggressively cracks down on Islamist militants in the Sinai. The group retaliates by attacking both civilian and government targets throughout Egypt.
January 20 – Ansar Bait al-Maqdis fires two rockets from Sinai into Eilat, a city in southern Israel. There are no injuries. 11 days later, they fire another rocket which is intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System.
February 16 – A suicide bomber approaches a tourist bus at the Taba crossing on the Egyptian side of the Egypt-Israel border. The bomber detonates himself, killing three South Korean tourists, their Egyptian bus driver, and wounding 17. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis claims responsibility for the attack, stating “one of the heroes of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis carried out the attack on a tourist bus heading towards the Zionist entity [Israel].”
July – On nine separate occasions over the course of Operation Protective Edge, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis fires rockets into Israeli territory.
October 24 – Ansar Bait al-Maqdis kills 33 Egyptian security personnel, detonating a bomb at a checkpoint and then firing upon soldiers who were called to the site. Though by no means the first Ansar Bait al-Maqdis attack on Egyptian military targets, it is the deadliest. Egypt then declares a state of emergency in Northern Sinai.
November 10 – Ansar Bait al-Maqdis sends members into ISIS territory to lobby for tactical and economic support. They formally pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. They are renamed Wilayat Sinai, the “Sinai Province,” officially integrating into the non-contiguous Islamic State.
ISIS in the Sinai continue their deadly attacks on Egyptian security forces, using weapons and support from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as Hamas, with whom they collaborate.
July 3 – ISIS claims responsibility for a rocket fired into southern Israel.
The IDF confirms that Hamas assists ISIS in the Sinai with financial, communications, training, and organizational support. ISIS uses tunnels in order to smuggle fighters into Gaza for training and medical care.
ISIS in the Sinai has grown larger, become more advanced, more organized, and better trained. They are equipped with anti-tank missiles, explosive belts, rocket-propelled grenades, and IED’s. In recent weeks, ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi explicitly threatened Israel, saying, “We are getting closer to you day by day. Do not think that we have forgotten about you.” The IDF is preparing for these threats. To counter the threat of ISIS on the Israel-Egypt border, the Caracal Battalion is permanently stationed along the 245-mile Egypt-Israel border.