Last Friday was a sad day for Egypt, unlike any other. The country has never experienced such incidents like those we hear about in Iraq and Syria, where mosques are bombed during prayers. The state media has always told us, “At least we aren’t like Syria and Iraq,” but now we are just like them. Worshippers were killed by the hundreds, as they knelt before God, and their blood flowed, without anyone to rescue them from this massacre. The death toll rose to 305 over the weekend; 27 children were among those killed and almost 200 other people were wounded.
This crime was committed despite the fact that the mosque is only a few metres away from a military base and checkpoint. This raises questions about how the armed group, with no more than 40 militants, according to official sources, were neither stopped nor searched. To make matters worse, they were riding in four-wheel-drive cars; how did they pass through the Ahmed Hamdy Tunnel en route to El-Arish, when such cars are prohibited from using it? None of the army or police forces stopped them; they simply allowed them to pass through with no problems. The army and police also allowed the militants to enter the mosque, undeterred, and left them to kill hundreds of worshippers and then leave unhindered, without any of the group being wounded or arrested.
This seems to be confusing at first glance and can be neither comprehended nor explained. However, we must put things in the right perspective. The issue goes beyond security negligence; even President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi refuses to accuse the security forces of being negligent. It is, sadly, laughable that in the disappointing speech he gave after the massacre, Sisi said that what happened was a natural result of the growth and development in Egypt and the efforts to combat terrorism. Hence, in his own words, this awful incident was not a result of security negligence. Nor, though, was it a result of the growth he referred to.
I am certain, however, that the growth of terrorism and his investment in it internationally, if not involvement in one way or another, is partly to blame, especially since he was head of military intelligence before being the defence minister. This is evidenced by the fact that he said in his speech, “We are fighting terrorism on behalf of the entire world,” to which the Guardian newspaper replied, “No one authorised him.”
It is true that no one authorised him; he authorised himself, as if his position as President of Egypt is there to protect the world from such terrorist incidents, and so the world must support him. He derives his legitimacy to rule from such terrorist acts, and so does not really want to stop them; that would men death for him and his tyrannical, fascist regime.
In his speech, he said that he would face terrorism with brutal strength. His use of the word “brutal” means that he will use ruthless oppression in tandem with his brutally oppressive government. Only a few hours passed before we saw the Egyptian Air Force bombing residential areas in North Sinai and the civilians who live there, which the military described as “terrorist cells”.
If the army knew where these cells were, why were they not bombed before the massacre? Or was the purpose of these aerial displays to calm the Egyptian people, whose anger has reached boiling point over the army’s performance in Sinai and its abandonment of combat missions and border security. Instead, soldiers are busy making cookies and pickles; and now farming fish and shrimp. I watched an official celebration, attended by Al-Sisi, live on television, celebrating the opening of the Armed Forces’ fish and shrimp farm. They were proud of such an achievement, which couldn’t be further from their combat duties; the army has been humiliated, and Egyptians are angry.
Such is the state of the military under Al-Sisi’s rule; an army that has lost its fighting spirit and changed its military doctrine from fighting the Zionist army to fighting the Muslims, which it describes as “fighting terrorism”. The army has turned into an economic institution selling fish, headless shrimp and candies.
Did the army actually kill dozens of terrorists, as announced in the official statement, or did it need to a way to wash away its disgrace and shame, and therefore was forced to kill dozens of innocent civilians in Sinai? This will provoke the anger of the people and encourage the survivors to avenge their relatives and neighbours, thus creating a vicious cycle of revenge, which the government is obviously reluctant to end.
Maybe, just maybe, the repeated acts of violence in North Sinai are the government’s way to displace the residents prior to annexing the area to the Gaza Strip and the creation of an “alternative” homeland for the Palestinians. That could be part of Trump’s “deal of the century”, for which the stage is being prepared, upon which Sisi’s terrorist organisation has a lead role.
There are many questions being asked. They will be answered in the coming days as events unfold. There is still a lot going on, and still a lot to happen.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.