After ISIS-affiliated groups in Sinai killed more than 100 Egyptian troops, the regime conducted a deadly attack on Muslim Brotherhood leaders, leaving 13 dead. In response, the movement called for resistance against the regime
Self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)-affiliated militants on Wednesday carried out deadly attacks on Egyptian security forces, leaving more than 60 dead and dozens wounded. The Egyptian army launched a massive operation in Sinai to hunt the militants and killed at least 100, according to local sources. However, Egyptian security forces also targeted the Muslim Brotherhood that was outlawed after the military coup, which overthrew Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013, under the leadership of the incumbent President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The police raid killed the movement's 13 leaders who were in a house to organize the delivery of aid to the detained Muslim Brotherhood members' families.
"The coordinated morning assaults in Sinai came a day after Egypt's president pledged to step up the battle against militants, and two days after the country's state prosecutor was assassinated in the capital, Cairo. The scope and intensity of the attacks underscored the resilience and advanced planning of the militants, who have for years battled Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai, but have intensified their insurgency over the past two years just as the government threw more resources into the drawn-out fight," the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. The Egyptian army has been pounding militants, but has avoided launching a ground attack due to geographic difficulties and the fact that the militants cannot be distinguished from common residents. A night-time curfew is in force in northern Sinai, but the streets are deserted by mid-afternoon. Internet and phone lines are disconnected for an average of 16 hours a day according to residents, and checkpoints dot the main roads. The Bedouin clans that form most of the region's population have long complained of the lack of jobs and opportunities that they say drives many locals into the tunnel smuggling trade. Therefore, it is a well-known fact that the people living in Sinai are in trouble with the central government. The militant groups enjoy the displeasure of people and accuse the government of serving the international powers, calling the people to raise their voices.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood has always denied relations with the militant groups as the radicals consider the movement members even heretics due to ideological disputes. The Egyptian government accuses the Muslim Brotherhood of both allying with the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai and Hamas, the ruler of Gaza Strip. Yet the government ignores the point that ISIS threatened Hamas to attack Gaza as well. ISIS militants in the video said Hamas rule is insufficiently stringent about religious enforcement. "We will uproot the state of the Jews [Israel] and you and Fatah, and all of the secularists are nothing, and you will be overrun by our creeping multitudes," said a masked ISIS militant. "The rule of sharia [Islamic law] will be implemented in Gaza, in spite of you. We swear that what is happening in the Levant today, and in particular the Yarmouk camp, will happen in Gaza," he said, referring to the group's advances in Syria and threatening Hamas with attacking Gaza.
Despite the contradictions, Sissi vowed to increase the struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi along with 105 other defendants were sentenced to death by an Egyptian court two weeks ago. Analysts claim that the regime will not implement the executions, but Sissi on Tuesday gave a clear indication that he intends to hang Morsi and the others. "The arm of justice is chained by the law. We're not going to wait for this. We're going to amend the law to allow us to implement justice as soon as possible, do courts in these circumstances work? Do these laws work? They work with normal people ... If there is a death sentence, a death sentence will be implemented ... the law! the law!" Sissi said.
In response to the killing of 13 leaders and tough statements, the Muslim Brotherhood released a statement on late Wednesday, calling for resistance against the regime. "The Muslim Brotherhood asserts that the assassination of its leaders is a turning point that will have its own repercussions by way of which the criminal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is initiating a new phase during which it will not be possible to control the anger of the oppressed sectors who will not accept to be killed in their own houses and in the middle of their families," the statement said. Condemning the attacks on Egyptian security forces in Sinai, they stated that "While asserting its rejection of the killing and violence in Sinai and in other places, the Muslim Brotherhood is holding the criminal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and his gangs responsible for the repercussions of these crimes," it said. The statement also called on the Egyptian people to "come out in rebellion and in defense of your country, yourselves, and your children."
The Muslim Brotherhood was the largest political movement in Egypt and was delivering aid, social services and education facilities across the country with a moderate Islamist ideology, seeking to end poverty, impoverishment, foreign intervention, unemployment, social problems and corruption. Since the first day of its establishment in 1928 by Hassan al-Benna, who was killed in 1949, the group never resorted to violence but preferred to remain in legal politics and separated itself from radical groups that adopted the Salafist and Wahhabi understanding of Islam like al-Qaida. The Muslim Brotherhood was familiar with politics, as it was struggling to grab seats in parliament in the Mubarak era. The group entered parliamentary elections and presidential elections. The popularity, reliability and fact-based words brought Muslim Brotherhood-supported Morsi to power after he received more than 50 percent of the votes.
After Sissi took power, the international community voiced its concern weakly against the human rights violations, mass death sentences, arbitrary detentions and the suppression of all opposition groups by the Sissi rule, despite the repeated warnings of rights groups. Moreover, the U.S. did not condemn the mass killing of people in Egypt as happened in Rabaa Square in 2013. The systematic and widespread killing of at least 817 demonstrators by Egyptian security forces in July and August 2013 probably amounts to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report, released last August. "In Rabaa Square, Egyptian security forces carried out one of the world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW. The Cairo administration shook the world frequently last year as Egyptian courts sentenced hundreds of people to death and to life in prison. A recent report by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, a local nongovernmental organization, said that more than 41,000 Egyptians had been subject to prosecution since Morsi's ouster.