by Mosaab ElShamy
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Army checkpoints on the road to Sinai are almost an indication of a region at war. The vast peninsula bordering Egypt with Gaza and Israel rose to the forefront of the new Egyptian government’s troubles after an army checkpoint was attacked by unknown militants last Ramadan, killing 16 soldiers. This was not the first attack of its kind in Sinia – the region has been a hotbed of militants long before the revolution, but even more so after the fall of Mubarak. This was, however, the deadliest attack seen in Sinai, and the first under President Morsi’s rule. Backed by public anger, the military launched Operation Eagle to hunt down those behind the attack. Different claims have been made regarding the outcome, but what is evident from my visit to the region is that little has changed.
All that Sinai has become notorious for – smuggling of weapons, torturing Africans and rise of militancy – remains unchanged. The army had also declared its intention to close down the tunnels connecting Sinai to the besieged Gaza strip, but in Rafah economic activity is booming with trucks full of goods coming in and out of the town almost every hour of the day.
The same lack of security along with rise of Islamist extremists led to yet another sectarian attack on the Coptic minority in Rafah, causing many to flee for their lives, almost 2 years after their church was burnt by armed militants.