Islamic State, Bedouin Clash in Sinai

YERUSHALAYIM -

A conflict between the Islamic State branch and the local Bedouin group Tarabin in the Sinai Peninsula has grown more serious in recent days, as the latter has joined forces with the Egyptian military against ISIS.

Until recently the Tarabin, the largest Bedouin group in the region, were allied with IS, but has now changed direction, following meetings with senior Egyptian officials.

Earlier this week, an IS suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint at Rafah, killing four members of the Tarabin and wounding a number of others. In reprisal, the tribe executed an ISIS member they had been holding captive.

Three days later, IS kidnapped two tribal youths. Armed Tarabin retaliated by kidnapping IS members and demanding an exchange of prisoners, which the latter refused.

At the start of the week, Tarabin announced that they had destroyed three IS vehicles, killed seven of the IS and took three more captive. The next day, photos of ten captured IS operatives were published by the Tarabin, including one they claim is that of Assad el Amarin, identified by Egyptian media as responsible for supply and financing of the terrorist organization in Sinai.

In clashes over the past few days, Tarabin succeeding in seizing from IS quantities of weapons, explosive materials and mines, which they subsequently turned over to Egyptian security forces.

In a statement made by a newly designated spokesman for the Tarabin, the tribe indicated that it would not return to normal life until this “nightmare” called IS was brought to an end. That was followed by a declaration that it was dedicated to “massacring” and “destroying” IS, and that it was acting in collaboration with the Egyptian government.

The Tarabin campaign against IS will likely lead to its elimination. Not all at once, but over the course of time, and as other Bedouin tribes join them, in alliance with the Egyptians.

The war between the Tarabin and IS is the first of its kind since the latter gained a foothold in Sinai, and the Salafist-jihadists were established there. The conflict has already caused a schism between IS and the general Bedouin population in Sinai, which also contributes to its weakening.

It is fair to assume that Egyptian security forces will exploit the newly developed vulnerabilities of IS in the peninsula.

In the meantime, IS continues to menace the Christian Coptics in Egypt, the country’s largest religious minority. An IS leader has said that the attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt is part of its war against infidels. He called upon Muslims in Egypt to join them, and if they cannot, they should at least launch terror attacks against the Christians and those who have abandoned Islam.

He added that the IS in Egypt are strongly connected to the branch in Sinai, which is paving the way to Yerushalayim. In addition, he warned Muslims in Egypt to keep their distance from the Coptic population, Westerners, the Egyptian army and police installations and governmental political and economic centers. This, because they are all considered “legitimate targets.”