News of a series of coordinated attacks on some of the most important security checkpoints in North Sinai could be perceived as a heavy defeat. The attacks followed a particularly intensified security presence in the region over the past few months, which was intended to hinder the movement of militants in the area.
1. The magnitude of these attacks and subsequent losses might’ve made more sense had they occurred immediately after the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Following efforts by the Armed Forces to expand its capabilities and rebuild its operational systems, the attacks appear to deal an even greater blow to the image of the state’s “war on terrorism” in the Sinai.
The attacks coincided with the second anniversaries of June 30 and July 3, a time when security forces were supposed to be on high alert, especially after the assassination of Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat on Monday.
2. This is the first time a series of coordinated attacks of such magnitude have taken place in broad daylight since the attack on the Karm al-Qawadees checkpoint in October 2014, which happened after Friday midday prayers.
Since this attack, it was widely believed that security infrastructure and high levels of vigilance by the Armed Forces during the day would make it difficult for a similar attack to occur. However, Wednesday’s attacks started at 6 am, when the daily curfew across Arish, Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah was about to end.
Following similar attacks in January 2015, the Province of Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdes) had claimed that they took advantage of the curfew to carry out their attack “to preserve the lives of Muslims.”
3. Using the same logic, the timing of Wednesday’s attack, only minutes before the end of the curfew, could be perceived as a deliberate attempt to limit civilian casualties. This is consistent with some reports from local sources in the past, which have highlighted attempts by militants to avoid provoking residents.
4. According to figures purportedly released by the Province of Sinai, their attacks targeted 15 checkpoints simultaneously, using “guided missiles.” This statement is also consistent with information released by sources close to the organization, which reported the group had acquired Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles.
5. Wednesday’s attacks present the possibility of militants imposing full control over Sheikh Zuwayed. Armed militant groups might’ve withdrawn to the edges of the city under the military’s heavy air strikes, but the attacks still pose a threat to military control in the region.