Regime Change in Gaza: Trajectories for a Post-Hamas Future

Terrorism Monitor 21(22)

Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC

Dr. Andrew McGregor

November 17, 2023

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (All Israel News)

The deadly October 7 Hamas operation was designed to use shock and terror to force a change in the status and future of Gaza’s Palestinian population. In this regard, the operation has been successful—life in Gaza will never be the same. According to Israeli authorities, part of these changes will include the disappearance of Hamas as a political and military entity. During a meeting at the Israeli Air Force operations headquarters, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said of the planned Israeli Defense Force (IDF) land offensive into Gaza: “This has to be the last maneuver in Gaza, for the simple reason that after it, there will not be a Hamas” (Arutz Sheva, [Beit El] October 22). National Security Council chief Tzachi Hanegbi has pledged Israel will “wipe [Hamas] from the face of the earth” (Times of Israel, October 14).

What then will a post-Hamas Gaza look like if the IDF succeeds? To follow are eight possible directions for Gaza’s future, which may involve one or more of these scenarios in combination:

Scenario 1: Return of the Palestinian Authority

After Hamas’s violent expulsion of Fatah from Gaza in 2007 and the subsequent dissolution of the Palestinian Unity government, Gaza and the West Bank have had little official interaction. This means the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the West Bank (dominated by the Fatah Party of President Mahmud Abbas) has little presence or influence in isolated Gaza.

Shrinking Palestinian Territories in red, including Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank.

The credibility of the PA, should it return to Gaza, could only suffer by following behind Israeli troops, unless some sort of intermediate administration was established. Even afterwards, it would be difficult to avoid being characterized as Israel’s puppet. If Gazans are allowed to remain, Israel will certainly intensify rather than relax its control of the enclave, which will be sealed even tighter to prevent the supply of money or weapons to any resistance factions in Gaza. Moreover, the PA may not be eager to rush back into Gaza, especially if it remains politically unsettled.

Scenario 2: Islamist Extremist Groups Grow in Influence

Israel’s plan to destroy Hamas (and presumably the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement and other minor Islamist militias) will leave a dangerous power vacuum in an already deeply traumatized region. This void is unlikely to be filled by any group or movement sympathetic to Israel. Palestinian anger may well encourage the growth of greater extremism. This could possibly manifest itself in new forms or in the rise in popularity in Gaza of more familiar groups, vis-à-vis al-Qaeda or Islamic State.

Scenario 3: Israeli Occupation

If, as expected, the IDF occupies all of Gaza, it will be the third such operation since the 2005 evacuation of Israeli troops and settlers. Returning Gaza to Israeli military occupation 18 years after disengagement is an idea with virtually no support in Israel or anywhere else. Israel is eager to escape an attack-response cycle that is expensive in economic terms, militarily demanding, and politically damaging.

Scenario 4: Return to Egyptian Control

Currently, Egypt has as little to do with Gaza as is possible and frequently closes its single border crossing with the enclave. Despite this, Egypt has a long history of being the dominant power in Gaza, going back as far as Pharaonic times, through the Muslim Ayyubid dynasty to the era of the medieval Mamluks before it passed into Ottoman control in the 16th century. Gaza was absorbed into Gamal Abd al-Nasser’s United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1959, and was ruled by an Egyptian governor until 1967. Before then, Egypt held Gaza with the Egyptian Army’s 8th Division, which was formed from Palestinian conscripts and Egyptian officers. Israel seized Gaza and Sinai from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War. While the Sinai Peninsula was eventually returned to Egypt, Gaza was not, and it remained under Israeli military occupation until 2005.

The Rafah Border Crossing between Gaza and Egypt

Officially, Egypt continues to advocate for an independent Palestinian state based on the borders that existed prior to the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Pro-Palestinian rallies have been organized under the aegis of President al-Sisi’s Mustaqbal Watan (Future of the Homeland) party and directed by officials believed to be undercover police. Unsanctioned protests of support in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and at al-Azhar mosque, however, have been met with beatings and mass arrests (MENA [Cairo], October 23; Al Jazeera, October 21). It is clear that Egypt’s response to the war in Gaza will be formed in government meeting rooms, not on the street.

Hamas can expect no help from Egypt, because of the group’s close connections to Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood. In Cairo’s view, many Gazans are infected with Islamic extremist ideology, and are suspected of collaborating with Islamist fighters in the Sinai who continue to be engaged in a 12-year-old insurgency. Egypt already hosts 9 million refugees, mostly from Middle Eastern or African countries. There is no desire in Cairo to resume Egypt’s historical control of Gaza or its 2.2 million people. Such an occupation would bring Egypt into direct contact with Israeli security forces in an unstable tinderbox. Five decades of peace with Israel have benefited Egypt, which contends with many other challenges that will not be improved by confrontations with the state. Nonetheless, as a major leader of the Arab world, President al-Sisi asserts that in Gaza “the existing reaction exceeds the right of self-defense on the part of Israel, and is turning into collective punishment” (al-Hurra [Cairo], October 16).

Cairo is also concerned that the Gaza conflict is taking international attention away from the still-raging conflict in neighboring Sudan (Ahram [Cairo], October 22; see TM, April 28). Nine thousand people have been killed in Sudan since April, while Egypt has reluctantly received over 300,000 Sudanese refugees. Cairo is hard-pressed to handle refugee pressures on both its southern and northern borders and is looking for greater international intervention to bring an end to the six-month old war in Sudan.

Scenario 5: Depopulation of Gaza

Israel is using a combination of airstrikes and warnings to compel Gazans to move to the southern part of the enclave, close to the Egyptian border. This has led to fears that Israel may seek to drive the entire population of Gaza across the border into Egyptian Sinai. Consistent with this, on October 18, President al-Sisi remarked that beyond Israel’s “direct military action” against Hamas, there was “an attempt to push the civilian population to seek refuge” in Egypt (Daily News Egypt, October 18). In a meeting with the British PM, al-Sisi declared: “We must not allow a civilian exodus from Gaza to Sinai because it would be a very dangerous matter…” The Egyptian president further warned that the consequences of failing to contain a growing spiral of violence “go beyond the right to defend oneself” (Ahram Online [Cairo], October 20). Desperate to avoid this wave of Gazan refugees, al-Sisi suggested they could instead be funnelled into Israel’s sparsely populated Negev Desert (Egypt Independent, October 18; Middle East Monitor, October 19).

Western suggestions that Egypt take in over a million Gazan refugees have angered the Egyptian government, with one senior official reportedly telling a European envoy: “You want us to take one million people? Well, I am going to send them to Europe. You care about human rights so much—well, you take them” (Middle East Monitor, October 19).

The Nakba of 1948

PA leader Mahmud Abbas also fears the permanent displacement of the Gazans, suggesting this would constitute “a second Nakba,” referring to the 1948 expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians from lands that would form the state of Israel (Al Jazeera, October 13). Ariel Kallner, a Knesset member from Israel’s ruling Likud Party, issued a call for another expulsion: “Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 48!” (al-Arabiya, October 8). Another Likud member, Revital Gotliv, has called for the use of nuclear weapons to destroy Gaza and render it uninhabitable: “It’s time to kiss doomsday!” (Middle East Eye, October 22; Middle East Monitor, October 10). These remarks were echoed by Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of the Otzma Yehudit Party (a Likud coalition partner), who suggested that a nuclear strike on Gaza was “one of the options” (though he later claimed he was speaking “metaphorically”) (Jerusalem Post, November 6). He further suggested that Gazans could “go to Ireland” (Dublin has been critical of the Israeli offensive in Gaza) (Times of Israel, November 5). Such calls for the depopulation of Gaza and the permanent dislocation of its people do not encourage evacuation from targeted areas nor cooperation with the IDF. [1]

Ariel Kallner (Times of Israel)

A leaked document from Israel’s Intelligence Ministry (described as a “concept paper”) suggested “large-scale migration from war zones … is a natural and sought-after outcome…” Among the countries mentioned as possible destinations for a mass exodus of Gazans are Greece, Spain, and Canada. The latter is singled out as a prime choice due to its “permissive immigration policy” (+972 Magazine [Tel Aviv], October 30).

Scenario 6: Establishment of a UN Mandate

One possible direction for a post-Hamas Gaza involves the revival of mandated territories, such as were common in the Middle East and Africa in the interval between the first and second world wars. Gaza itself was under the British Mandate for Palestine from 1923 to 1948. Under the auspices of the League of Nations, these mandates typically involved the transfer of former European colonies or parts of the Ottoman Empire to the control of other European nations with an eye toward guiding these territories into a state of self-determination and independence. In practice, the mandates simply maintained colonial status under new masters who were in no hurry to establish self-governance.

Assuming such a mandate is approved by the UN Security Council, which is not necessarily likely, a return of Gaza to European control under a UN mandate is simply a non-starter. Broad international participation would be required, including a massive operation involving peacekeepers, reconstruction assistance, medical and development aid, and infrastructure repair. It would be difficult to secure support for such a program from all the badly-divided members of the permanent UN Security Council. With the UN already overstretched and underfunded (especially with regard to humanitarian aid), approval of a UN mandate would only be the first step in a long and difficult process. Yisrael Beitenu Party leader Avigdor Liberman (a former defense minister, foreign minister, and deputy prime minister) has suggested that the UN forgo providing any aid to Gaza in favor of sending assistance to Libya, Sudan, and Syria instead (Jerusalem Post, October 18).

Scenario 7: Arab League Occupation

It has been suggested that some Arab nations friendly to Israel (specifically Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates) could be handed a mandate over a disarmed Gaza (Israel Hayom, October 16). Israel would determine “how the international force can operate, what weapons it is allowed to have, and anything else that effects the Jewish state’s security needs,” effectively making such a force little more than an Israeli proxy (Israel Hayom, October 19). However, there is no lineup of Arab nations ready and willing to assume responsibility for struggling Gazans living in ruins.

Some of these formerly friendly Arab states may also be growing less friendly by the day. For example, nine nations, including at least seven that might be called friendly to Israel, issued a statement on October 26 assailing Israel’s conduct of the conflict: “The right to self-defense by the United Nations Charter does not justify blatant violations of humanitarian and international law.” They further rejected any attempt “to displace the Palestinian people from their land in any way, considering it a serious violation of international humanitarian law and tantamount to a war crime” (Asharq al-Awsat, October 26). [2] The Arab League, which has no joint military mechanism, has not yet expressed any interest in assuming control of Gaza.

Scenario 8: Survival/Revival of Hamas

In a policy born of anger rather than feasibility, Israel has set itself the impossible task of eliminating every trace of Hamas, which has both political and armed wings. Short of killing or expelling every resident of Gaza, this will prove impossible. Part of the problem is the success Hamas has had in eliminating internal threats to its rule, leaving Gazans with few political alternatives. With deep roots in Gaza, there is a strong chance that Hamas will survive the current round of fighting, even if it does so in a slightly different form or under a different name.

Conclusion

Israel has regarded Gaza as an independent Palestinian state since its withdrawal in 2005 and is thus likely to repudiate responsibility for the territory when military operations are complete. As two veteran Israeli intelligence authorities recently stated: “It needs to be clear that neither Gaza reconstruction nor care for the health, sanitation, or displacement of residents is Israel’s responsibility” (Times of Israel, October 21). Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant likewise insists that the final phase of Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza will involve “the removal of Israel’s responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip” (Times of Israel, October 20).

There will inevitably be calls from so-called “progressive” factions in the West to allow mass migration of Gazans to Western nations, which could receive support from some Israeli leaders anxious to be done with the Palestinians. There are, however, already demands from Republican presidential hopefuls and others to ban Palestinian entry to the United States (Times of Israel, October 19).

With so many variables in play, one thing about the future of Gaza is still clear—the people who will not have a say in it are the Gazan people themselves.

Notes:

[1] Israeli government documents from 1948 were declassified in 2021 and confirm long-standing reports of massacres and forcible evictions, as well as the shocked responses of some Israeli cabinet members to the violence. The documents were examined in a report by Israeli daily Haaretz and the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research entitled “Classified Docs Reveal Massacres of Palestinians in ’48 – and What Israeli Leaders Knew” (Haaretz, December 9, 2021).

[2] The document was signed by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Morocco.

Observations on the Strategies of the Gaza-Israel Conflict

Dr. Andrew McGregor

Aberfoyle International Security – Special Report on the Gaza-Israel Conflict

October 13, 2023The Hamas strategy is to lose the military battle but win the political war, one that will be fought in the coming years in the chambers of the United Nations, in the streets, on university campuses permeated with “decolonization” ideology and in the political assemblies of the West.

The primary goal of Hamas in the current conflict is not territorial conquest, but rather to put the Palestinian issue back into the public spotlight after it steadily receded from view during the implementation of the Abraham Accords (a series of bilateral peace treaties between Arab states and Israel) and the ongoing expansion of the Accords to include Saudi Arabia. This expansion has been at least temporarily derailed, as the Saudis cannot move forward on this initiative so long as fellow Arabs are being killed by Israeli troops. Riyadh, which attempts to keep the Palestinian issue at arms-length, has criticized the Hamas assault on Israel and suggested the hand of Iran was behind it. A secondary goal of Hamas involves the release of thousands of Palestinians from Israeli prisons by means of exchanging Israeli hostages at enormously favorable ratios.

The disparity in strength between Hamas forces and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is proof of the political rather than military objectives behind the Hamas attacks. The IDF estimates there are roughly 30,000 fighters available to Hamas; besides 170,000 IDF regulars, Israel has called up 360,000 reservists in anticipation of a ground offensive into Gaza.

Hamas has no air assets beyond drones, little in the way of anti-aircraft defenses, no naval assets, no guided munitions (other than drones) and no trained reserves to call on. It is impossible to believe that anyone in the Hamas leadership might have believed in any other result of their incursion than an IDF ground offensive into Gaza. Receiving this ground offensive must thus be acknowledged as part of the Hamas strategy. The horrors of a massive military incursion into one of the world’s most densely populated regions will help legitimize Israel’s critics and encourage new international perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s “full siege” of Gaza includes cutting off all food, water, gas and electric power, supplies of which are controlled by Israel. Gaza’s overtaxed hospitals are already shutting down operations. Without food, water or power, hunger and disease will begin to take their toll, with the most vulnerable perishing first. As this narrative grows, the West’s unequivocal support for Israel may begin to waver, at least at the sub-government level. For Hamas, this is a ruthless but possibly effective strategy designed to achieve long-term rather than short-term goals.

Gaza City under Israeli Attack (al-Jazeera)

Following are a few observations about the conflict, how it’s being fought, its implications and possible directions:

  • Roughly rectangular in shape, 25-mile-long Gaza has two land-borders with Israel. The sea forms a third and is blockaded by the Israeli Navy. The final border is with Egypt. Heavily fortified, its single entry point at Rafah is often closed and Egyptian troops search constantly for smuggling tunnels. An important part of anti-Hamas narratives in the West and the Middle East is the assertion that Hamas does not represent the Gazan population but rules by force, having failed to hold a single election since mounting a coup against the Palestinian Authority in 2007. There is a good case to be made for this, but without even the possibility of escape, it is impossible for Gazan opponents of Hamas to separate themselves from “Hamas targets” in heavily populated Gaza. A ground assault on Gaza without an escape corridor for non-combatants can only mean the death of Gazans of every political inclination. The inability or unwillingness on the part of Israel and Egypt to allow refugee flows brings on the possibility of accusations of “collective punishment,” which is forbidden by the Geneva Convention. Israel, while a signatory to the Convention, rejects the idea that the Convention applies to the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Egypt may allow humanitarian and medical aid to pass through the Rafah border-crossing to Gaza (as it did during the 2014 Israeli incursion), but is unlikely to accept any refugee flows. Egypt and Hamas have been at odds for many years (other than the brief rule of the Egyptian Brotherhood’s Muhammad Mursi) and Gaza is viewed as a source of militants, arms and munitions for the Islamist insurgency in neighboring North Sinai, now in its 13th Egypt appears to have tried to warn Israel of an upcoming Hamas assault on the Israeli border, wishing to avoid being placed in their current position.
  • There will be a post-crisis reckoning for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, under whose watch Israel ignored or misinterpreted intelligence indicating a Hamas attack over as much as a two-year period. If the ruling coalition collapses, another election is inevitable.
  • Trust in the IDF as the guarantor of Jewish Israeli security has been strongly eroded. Border defenses proved ineffective and nearly 200 Israeli soldiers were killed in the initial attack. By comparison, only 121 IDF soldiers were killed in a month of intensive combat with Hezbollah in 2006. Israeli daily Haaretz has criticized Israeli TV stations for refusing to show footage of IDF positions being overrun. IDF tactics and leadership will require an overhaul after the crisis ends. The army’s recent focus on providing security for Israeli settlers expanding their settlements in the West Bank meant many troops were unable to respond quickly to a strike on the other side of Israel. An incursion into Gaza will mean further losses as the IDF attacks prepared positions.
  • Contrary to the recent assertions of many media outlets, Hezbollah is not a Palestinian movement. The “Party of God” is instead composed of Shi’a Arabs living in the hills of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah has been at odds with Israel since the latter invaded southern Lebanon in 1982. Though allied to Hamas, the movement has only engaged over the last week in a limited exchange of cross-border fire with Israel. Rocket fire may increase during an Israeli move into Gaza, but Hezbollah will prefer to keep to its strong defensive positions in southern Lebanon rather than expose its fighters in the plains of northern Israel. Hezbollah’s missiles and missile tactics are superior to those of Hamas; their use in large numbers could force Israel to open a second front in the north, though this would result in further IDF losses and stretch military resources. There is, however, no reason to believe that Hezbollah will enter the fray if it is not seen to be in their interests, which are not identical to those of the Palestinians. Despite this, an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza could lead to Hezbollah’s Iranian liaisons to press for more active attacks on Israel to relieve pressure on Hamas.
  • Hamas does not have the benefit of support from other active jihadist groups, which tend to have their own agendas. Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant even threatened two days ago to wipe “Hamas, ISIS-Gaza, off the face of the earth.” However, the Islamic State organization (a Sunni extremist movement which stopped using the name ISIS in June 2014) regards Hamas as apostates to Islam manipulated by Shiite Iran and has instructed its followers to avoid the Hamas conflict with Israel while stockpiling weapons for their own jihad. Though Hamas is an Islamist movement, Islamic State insists it and several other Palestinian movements are focused on nationalist objectives rather than the establishment of a Shari’a-based Islamic state. The Islamic State’s rival, al-Qaeda, while not aligned with Hamas, has praised the “blessed victories” of the movement and encouraged Hamas to continue its “resistance” to Israeli occupation without pledging any material or military support. A fatwa (religious ruling) issued by Muslim Brotherhood groups and scholars on October 7 ruled that it is a religious obligation to answer the call to jihad and permissible to kill “any Zionist soldier or settler wherever they are found in Muslim lands.” The 29 signatories are based in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Senegal, Algeria and several other nations. Like al-Qaeda’s applause, the fatwa will likely have no real effect on the conflict.
  • The West Bank’s governing Palestinian Authority (the PA, dominated by the Fatah movement led by Mahmoud ‘Abbas) is a committed enemy of Hamas, which expelled it from Gaza in 2007. There is no evidence of PA collusion in the Hamas attack, though its intelligence section must have had some information on the preparations being made in Gaza. The PA will continue to avoid statements of support for Hamas, at least until an Israeli ground incursion makes this impossible. West Bank residents will not necessarily take the PA’s lead; roughly 30 West Bank protestors and militants have already been killed by the IDF. Jewish settlements in the West Bank, aggressive at the best of times, are preparing for war, with the IDF pouring arms into settlement defense forces.
  • Decentralization of the conflict represents an international danger. Protests that turn violent, attacks on religious institutions and more brutal attacks on innocent and even uninvolved civilians by “lone wolves” or terrorist cells could create social and political instability in the West.

Israel’s natural insistence on its right to defend itself is being turned against it in a war Hamas fully intends to lose. It is a trap that Israel will walk into with a massive military incursion into Gaza assigned to the near-hopeless task of rescuing Israeli hostages. These are almost certain to have been distributed throughout Gaza; some appear to have already died in Israeli airstrikes. Hamas has already succeeded in reminding the world of the Palestinians’ condition, a primary objective.

An Israeli ground-strike will meet many surprises, with Hamas knowing it would follow its initial attack. Gaza will suffer greatly, but the longer-lasting damage, diplomatically and politically, will be suffered by Israel. Knowing they are unable to defeat Israel militarily at this time, Hamas is attempting to build future success with a narrative of Palestinian sacrifice designed to undermine support for Israel in the West, where such narratives are increasingly well-received.

“Biafra or Death”: Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and the Struggle for Biafran Independence

Andrew McGregor

October 10, 2017

Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the founder and leader of a Biafran separatist movement known as the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), has been missing since a raid by Nigerian security forces on his Abia State compound on September 14. Rumors abound regarding Kanu’s fate or location: some say he sustained gunshot wounds in the raid and is in serious condition but unable to seek medical help for fear of arrest; others say he was killed and his body taken away or that he was arrested after the raid and hustled off in an unmarked vehicle, or even that he escaped to the United Kingdom (UK) via Malaysia (This Day [Lagos], September 24; Vanguard [Lagos], October 2).

Mazi Nnamdi Kanu

Nigeria’s government, fearing the growth of a southern version of the northern Boko Haram insurgency, declared IPOB a “terrorist organization” the day after the raid. Given that over one million Nigerians died during the unsuccessful 1967-1970 war for Biafran independence, Kanu’s efforts to inflame separatist sentiments in Biafra and their consequences for Nigeria’s stability and oil revenues are being taken seriously.

IPOB, claiming two million members mostly from the Igbo ethnic group, says it is in a struggle with Hausa-Fulani security forces from the Muslim north. Kanu has been accused of creating a secret armed group to combat them. Kanu, a dual British-Nigerian citizen, was out on bail on treason charges that followed his 2015 arrest at the time of his disappearance. The separatist leader promised before the raid: “If I’m re-arrested, this country will burn, I assure you” (Sun News [Lagos], September 2). Kanu’s promise to cut off vital oil revenues from the south has hardly endeared him to the rest of the country and he is opposed even by some fellow Biafran separatists.

(History Today)

The government’s decision to declare IPOB a terrorist group and the army’s ongoing Operation Python Dance II has pre-empted any mass insurrection, but tension in Nigeria’s South-East region is growing.

Early Life

Kanu was born in Nigeria’s Abia State in 1967, the first year of independence for the short-lived Republic of Biafra. A Christian of the Igbo ethnic group (one of Nigeria’s largest, with 33 million people), Nnamdi Kanu is the son of HRM Eze (an Igbo royal title) Israel Okwu Kanu, a traditional ruler based in Isiama Afara, a town in Umuahia, Abia State (Nigerianbiography.com, December 19, 2015). As the son of an Igbo traditional ruler, Nnamdi Kanu is sometimes referred to by his followers as “prince.”

Kanu attended the University of Nigeria, Nnsuka in Enugu State, where strikes interrupted his progress, before further studies at London’s Guildhall University (NigerianMonitor.com, n.d.).

According to his father, Kanu was originally a member of a major Biafran independence group, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), but a rift began with MASSOB leader Chief Ralph Uwazuruike over the distribution of party funds. A permanent split occurred after Uwazuruike arrived at Kanu’s wedding with ten buses of angry supporters. The wedding was disrupted and Kanu badly beaten (Punch [Lagos], February 14, 2016). At that point, Kanu decided to lead his own independence movement.

Radio Biafra

 Radio Biafra first operated as the “Broadcasting Corporation of Biafra” during the Nigerian Civil War. The station was revived by Kanu as a London-based shortwave and internet broadcaster in 2009. [1]

According to Kanu, “Radio Biafra programs were designed to wake up the public from their slumber and address the issues of the time, which [were] youth unemployment, lack of infrastructural provisions, poor electricity, an absence of rural development, and conspicuous absence of respect for human rights” (Facebook, December 31, 2015).

In practice, Kanu and his radio associates became known for inflammatory and insulting commentary. Beginning in 2013, Kanu used his broadcasts to claim that Igbo politicians were controlled by northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani “godfathers” who were working toward the Islamization of Nigeria’s southeastern states (Sahara Reporters, March 25, 2014). In a statement written after his 2015 arrest, Kanu apologized for referring to President Buhari on Radio Biafra as “evil, a terrorist and a pedophile,” and for uncomplimentary comments about President Goodluck Jonathan and Igbo elders: “All I was trying to do is draw attention to the problems afflicting society and what society is doing about it” (Facebook, December 31, 2015).

In one of his most disturbing statements, Kanu promised chaotic bloodshed if he failed to get his way:

If they fail to give us Biafra, Somalia will look like a paradise compared to what will happen to that zoo. It is a promise, it is a pledge and it is also a threat to them. If they do not give us Biafra, there will be nothing living in that very zoo they call Nigeria; nothing will survive there, I can assure you…  I do not believe in peaceful actualization or whatever rubbish it is called. I have never seen where you become free by peaceful means (Sahara Reporters, March 25, 2014).

Arrest and Trial

 Kanu was arrested at a Lagos hotel by the Department of State Services (DSS – Nigeria’s secret police) on October 14, 2015 during a visit home. He was charged by the DSS with “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organization.” The arrest generated protests outside the Abuja courtroom and across much of southwestern Nigeria. Despite being granted bail on October 19, 2015, Kanu remained in detention over the protests of his lawyers.

Nigerian authorities were no doubt alarmed by an address given by Kanu at the World Igbo Congress in Los Angeles on September 5, 2015 in which Kanu said the independence movement needed “guns and bullets.” Kanu tried to walk back his comments in a June 2017 interview, insisting the Igbo only needed weapons for self-defense against marauding Fulani herdsmen, but the damage was done (Daily Post [Lagos], June 27).

Inspired by Donald Trump’s support for Brexit, Kanu wrote the president-elect from prison in November 2016 to remind him that his electoral victory placed upon him a “historic and moral burden to liberate enslaved nations in Africa… It is imperative to draw historical parallels between your victory and that of the great Dwight Eisenhower, a fellow Republican, who was instrumental in the dismantling of European colonialism in Africa” (Herald [Lagos], November 11, 2016).

Nnamdi Kanu with supporters (Naij.com)

During new bail hearings in early 2017, Kanu often appeared in court wearing a Jewish yarmulke and tallit [prayer shawl], signs of his newly professed adherence to Judaism and the belief that the Igbo are a lost tribe of Israelites. [2] Some followers protesting for his release outside the court appeared in similar garb.

The court granted Kanu bail on April 25 on condition that he refrain from public speaking, giving interviews or joining a gathering of ten or more people. He was due back in court on October 17, 2017. One of the three individuals who stood as sureties for Kanu’s bail was Nigerian Chief Rabbi Immanuel Shalum Okabemadu.

After his release, Kanu attempted to clarify his position on Biafran independence:

An independent Biafra means going back to where we were before the White man came. I am talking about total independence from Nigeria. Nothing can ever happen to make me change my mind about this [direction] of independence for Biafra. It is either Biafra or death. I will not go to war because truth is a far more potent and deadlier weapon than bullet and mortars. I have absolutely ruled out war from the struggle. When I say Biafra or death, I mean I will keep pushing; either I am alive or dead in the process, I won’t stop (Daily Post [Lagos], July 6).

Nnamdi Kanu and the Hebrew Igbo

Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency was greeted with street celebrations by IPOB members who believed he would reverse President Obama’s support for the Buhari administration. Many of the pro-Biafran celebrants wore yarmulkes and tallitot. Some of the self-declared Jewish Biafran separatists believe the president’s strong support for Israel will translate into support for an independent pro-Israel Biafran state (Forward.com, February 6).

Pro-Trump Rally, Port Harcourt (The Forward)

The similarity of some Igbo customs to Jewish customs was first noted in the 1789 autobiography of a freed slave, Olaudah Equiano. [3] These similarities were expanded upon by Christian missionaries, but the identification by an Igbo minority with Judaism and Israel is of much more recent vintage. Nonetheless, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that “there are no historical, halachic or national grounds to view the members of the Igbo tribe as Jews,” and all Igbo attempts to migrate to Israel under the Law of Return have resulted in deportation (Forward.com, January 24, 2016). Efforts to establish a link by DNA testing have proven controversial rather than conclusive (Times of Israel, August 11). Though the “Jewish Igbo” remain a highly vocal and visible minority, out of some 33 million Nigerian Igbo, only 3,000 to 30,000 practice a form of Judaism.

Benjamin Onwuka

A rival Biafran independence movement is known as the “Biafran Zionists’ Federation” (BZF, a break-away group from MASSOB).  Pro-U.S. and pro-Israel, the BZF is led by barrister Benjamin Onwuka, who declared the independence of Biafra with himself as “interim president” on July 31 (Pulse.ng, August 1). Onwuka announced Israelis would have important cabinet appointments in his new administration and (falsely) that the new nation had “been recognized by the U.S.” (Daily Post [Lagos], July 31; This Day [Lagos], September 13).

The Biafran National Guard

An armed group closely associated with Kanu is the Biafran National Guard (BNG), a group of militants led by “General” Innocent Orji, who claims to have received his appointment from the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, president of Biafra during its brief independence (1967-1970). (Daily Post [Lagos], September 5).

The BNG says it works in cooperation with IPOB but ultimately takes orders from “Supreme Allied Commander Prince Nnamdi Kanu.” The group claims to have large numbers of Biafran-origin veterans of the U.S. military services and is seeking to recruit more. [4] In a statement released on September 18, the BNG declared that they were not a new group (as claimed by the Nigerian Army) but were an independent organization that did not subscribe to the “peaceful strategy of IPOB,” adding the Nigerian military “can go to hell” (Daily Post [Lagos], September 18). One of their odder beliefs is that President Buhari is dead and has been replaced by an imposter who is the product of plastic surgery and determined to “crush” Biafrans (Daily Post [Lagos], September 5).

A November 2016 Amnesty International report appeared to confirm IPOB and BNG claims of incidents of extreme violence against Biafran secessionists by the Nigerian Army, police and DSS, including widespread torture and the deaths of at least 150 pro-Biafra protesters between August 2015 and August 2016. [5] The army, in turn, cited IPOB attacks against non-Igbo ethnic groups and security services and claimed that IPOB’s “unjustifiable violence… threatens national security” and has produced “unimaginable atrocities to unhinge the reign of peace, security and stability in several parts of South East Nigeria” (Premium Times [Abuja], November 24, 2016).

The Raid on Nnamdi Kanu’s Compound

Abia State’s police commissioner declared that the Ariara police station was attacked repeatedly between September 10 and 14 by IPOB members using petrol bombs. The station was destroyed, with one policeman killed and three pump action shotguns stolen. The commissioner also outlined disturbances in Umuahia, where IPOB members allegedly attacked soldiers as well as the residences of military and police officers. Sixty members of IPOB were arrested and charged with offenses including terrorism and attempted murder (Guardian [Lagos], September 17; The Nation [Lagos], September 25; Premium Times [Abuja], September 25).

With tensions rising in Umuahia, a serious clash occurred on September 10 between security forces and followers of Kanu staying at his family compound. Kanu claimed troops had attacked the compound and injured occupants in an attempt to kill him; his lawyer added that “about five of his family members were brutally wounded and some unfortunately killed” (Premium Times [Abuja], September 10).

The police and the Army’s 14th Brigade gave varying descriptions of the incident, but both agreed there was no attack on Kanu’s compound, but rather that suspected IPOB militants had attacked soldiers on patrol and an armored personnel carrier (APC) on a test run with stones, broken bottles and machetes (Sahara Reporters, September 10; Leaders.ng, September 18). The military released a video supporting their version of events, including troops firing in the air but not at the demonstrators.

Four days later security forces were back with the clear purpose of seizing the compound and those within. Gunfire within the compound was reported for over an hour. IPOB claims that the Nigerian army removed 22 bodies and 38 arrested members from Kanu’s compound, none of whom have been heard from since (Daily Post [Lagos], September 18; This Day [Lagos], September 24). Among the missing were Kanu and his parents.

IPOB Declared a Terrorist Group

IPOB’s classification as a terrorist organization began a day later on September 15, when Nigerian Defense Headquarters confirmed that IPOB was “a militant terrorist organization.” Though the military backed off slightly a few days later, calling their announcement a “pronouncement” rather than a “declaration,” IPOB’s new status quickly received government backing (Africa News, September 19). An application by the attorney-general and justice minister to declare IPOB a terrorist organization was given judicial approval by the Federal High Court in Abuja on September 20 (Punch [Lagos], September 22; Sahara Reporters, September 24).

The U.S. Embassy in Abuja declared that IPOB “is not a terrorist organization under U.S. law” (Sahara Reporters, September 24). However, a special adviser to President Buhari insisted that recognition of IPOB as a terrorist group by foreign nations was “inconsequential”: “This is a group that was burning police stations; killing police officers, throwing bombs at military convoys, threatening to make the country ungovernable…” (Daily Post [Lagos], September 25).

Biafran Independence Protest

The “IPOB Intelligence Unit” claimed to have discovered a plot by “Hausa-Fulani Islamic extremists” in the security services to kill condemned prisoners in Nigerian military uniforms and then blame the killings on IPOB militants, justifying the planned extermination of thousands of Biafran “terrorist” youths (Daily Post [Lagos], September 22). No evidence was provided of this planned attempt to exploit the terrorist designation, which is somewhat typical of IPOB’s hyperbolic rhetoric that portrays the Biafran independence struggle as a war between the Igbo and the “British-supported Muslim Hausa-Fulani oligarchy” (Daily Post [Lagos], March 23). However, Nigeria has tried, unsuccessfully, to use the terrorist designation to compel the UK government to shut down Radio Biafra (The Nation [Lagos], September 22).

Conclusion

The Biafran secession movement is badly organized, and its failure to develop an encompassing strategic plan has left it open to charges that it is little more than an excuse for mindless street violence. These weaknesses are now being exploited by the state. IPOB’s threats of military activity to defend itself cannot be taken seriously, though at its present level of organization it is capable of terrorist activities, sabotage, vandalism and low-level militancy. Unfortunately, in Nigeria’s current highly agitated political atmosphere, this might be enough to ignite new waves of ethnic violence similar to those that sparked the first war for Biafran independence. Nigeria’s military is not taking chances — Operation Python Dance II may be viewed as a pre-emptive occupation intended to squelch the development of an armed insurgency, though there is a danger that it might also be seen as more of an act of intimidation than a measured response to a poorly-armed and rag-tag group of militants that one Nigerian commentator described as “looking in need of a good home meal” (Sahara Reporters, September 16).

There are many non-Igbo minorities within the borders of “Biafra” that have not been consulted by the Igbo secessionists, and Kanu’s approach is opposed even by other secessionists, including his rivals in MASSOB. The example of South Sudan’s 2011 secession from Sudan does not hold out hope for the success of an independent Biafra. President Buhari has been unequivocal in his opposition to Biafran independence: “We will not let that happen. For Nigeria to divide now, it is better for all of us to jump into the sea and get drowned” (Sun News [Lagos], May 10, 2016).

Though Nnamdi Kanu has been able to use his “royal” lineage to establish local credibility, his record does not suggest he can be taken seriously as the type of thoughtful, patient and responsible leader needed to bring any new nation into being. His haste, posturing and provocative behavior may have cost him his life; at best they have dealt a serious blow to the long-term success of the Biafran independence movement.

NOTES

[1] http://www.liveonlineradio.net/english/radio-biafra.htm

[2] Nigerian lawyer Remy C. Ilona is one of the most vocal proponents of the Igbo-Jewish identification and his 2014 work The Igbos and Israel: An Inter-cultural Study of the Oldest and Largest Jewish Diaspora is often cited in this context (Street to Street Epic Publications, 2014). More balanced accounts of the issue can be found in: Daniel Lis: Jewish Identity Among the Igbo of Nigeria: Israel’s “Lost Tribe” and the Question of Belonging in the Jewish State, Africa World Press, Trenton, 2014 and Johannes Harnischfeger, “Igbo Nationalism and Jewish Identities,” in: Edith Bruder and Tudor Parfitt (eds.), African Zion: Studies in Black Judaism, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 65-86.

[3] Published as The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.

[4] See https://biafran.org/2015/07/25/mission-of-biafran-national-guard-bng/[

5] “’Bullets Were Raining Everywhere’: Deadly Repression of Pro-Biafra Activists,” Amnesty International, November 22, 2016, https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/bullets-were-raining-everywhere-deadly-repression-of-pro-biafra-activists/

This article first appeared in the October 10, 2017 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Militant Leadership Monitor.

Preparing for the Next Stage: Islamic Jihad’s Gaza War

Andrew McGregor
September 4, 2014

Days after the September 24 ceasefire that ended Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, thousands of members of Islamic Jihad who had fought alongside Hamas in the 50 day conflict gathered with their weapons in Gaza City to hear al-Quds Brigade (the armed wing of Islamic Jihad) spokesman Mahmoud al-Majzoub (a.k.a. Abu Hamza) declare: “We have not stopped making weapons, even during the battle, and we will redouble our efforts… to prepare for the next stage, which we hope will be the battle for freedom” (AFP, August 30).

Islamic JihadIslamic Jihad Movement in Palestine

The Iranian-supported Sunni “resistance movement” (full name: Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami fi Filastin – The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine) was targeted by Israeli bombardment and heavily involved in the urban warfare that claimed the lives of 66 Israeli soldiers. Islamic Jihad reports the loss of 121 members during the fighting but asserts that it managed to fire 3,250 rockets, mortars and missiles into Israel during operations that were often closely coordinated with Hamas (i24news.tv, August 29). In addition, some 900 mortar shells were fired during operations against Israeli armor along the Gaza-Israel border (Press TV [Tehran], August 30). Certain IJ leaders were targeted during the conflict, including Shaban Sulayman al-Dahdouh, who was killed along with 13 others in a July 21 airstrike (Ma’an News Agency, August 5).

Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah maintains that Israel was surprised by the military capabilities of the resistance movement in Gaza (Press TV, August 26). His movement mounted its own limited military operation in March after Israeli forces killed three IJ fighters within Gaza, firing 130 rockets into Israel during “Operation Breaking the Silence” (al-Jazeera, March 12).

While Islamic Jihad was prepared to negotiate a ceasefire in the latest conflict in August, Israeli demands for disarmament were rejected from the first. According to a senior Islamic Jihad leader, Khader Habib, “The issue of arms is connected to the existence of the occupation… This right [to bear arms in self-defense] is guaranteed by the laws of heaven and earth” (Middle East Monitor, August 7).

Al-Quds Brigade spokesman Abu Hamza has emphasized that Islamic Jihad is determined to improve its military capabilities while thanking those nations and groups who supported the Palestinians during the Israeli offensive, singling out Hezbollah, Iran and Sudan in particular (Press TV [Tehran], August 30). Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander General Mohammed Ali Jafari has assured both Hamas and Islamic Jihad of more help “than in the past in all defense and social domains” (AFP, August 30).
With inspiration from the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Palestinian exiles Abd al-Aziz Awda and Taghi Shaqaqi created Islamic Jihad in the same year, initially operating out of Egypt. Shaqaqi was assassinated in Malta by a Mossad team in 1995, while Awda assumed the spiritual leadership of the group. Today, Islamic Jihad operates in both Gaza and the West Bank under the leadership of Dr. Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, an original member and former professor in southern Florida who took control of the movement after Shaqaqi’s death.

Though he views its establishment as unlikely, Shallah has indicated he would favor the establishment of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict in which Palestinian Muslims and Christians would have equal rights with Israeli Jews. [1] Short of a one-state solution, the IJ secretary-general insists on nothing less than the “total liberation of Palestine.” Shallah acknowledges ideological similarities with Hamas, but emphasizes Islamic Jihad’s separate approach:

We share the same Islamic identity. From a strategic point of view, there is no difference between us and Hamas, only a tactical difference… Don’t ask me what the political solution is to be. We aren’t the guilty party to be asked for a solution because we didn’t create the problem. Our sacred duty is to fight, to resist occupation of our sacred land change the conditions of our people. That is our duty, our sacred duty. Others, like Fatah, have maps and negotiations. We resist. [2]

Despite the close (and almost essential) military cooperation between Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas) and Islamic Jihad during the conflict with Israel, the two movements have become political rivals to some degree within Gaza. Recent polling has suggested Islamic Jihad has made recent gains in popularity at the expense of Hamas, though the movement still commands just over 13 percent support (Al-Monitor, August 10). Besides its military activities, Islamic Jihad offers social services to Gaza’s hard pressed population, including health services, schools and dispute mediation, the latter often in ways that are more efficient than similar services offered by Hamas.

The movement believes its focus on armed struggle is attracting new supporters, though Islamic Jihad has the luxury of not having to focus on the nearly insurmountable problems of governing a region under blockade that confront Hamas on a daily basis. Islamic Jihad has also distanced itself from Hamas’ association with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a liability in today’s political climate and counter to IJ’s interest in maintaining good relations with the new Egyptian leadership. There are reports of occasional small-scale clashes between Hamas and Islamic Jihad inside Gaza, but Islamic Jihad shows little inclination to pursue or escalate these conflicts, keeping in mind that Hamas has control over the supply of weapons smuggled into Gaza (al-Akhbar [Beirut], April 16).

Notes

1. Scott Atran and Roberty Axelrod: “Interview with Ramadan Shallah, Secretary General, Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” Damascus, Syria, December 15, 2009, Perspectives on Terrorism 4(2), 2010, http://jeannicod.ccsd.cnrs.fr/docs/00/50/53/76/PDF/Ramadan_Shallah.pdf
2. Ibid.

This article first appeared in the September 4, 2014 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Plan to Ship Israeli Gas to Egypt Raises Political and Security Concerns

Andrew McGregor

May 15, 2014

Only two years after public opposition and attacks by militants brought an end to Egyptian gas shipments to Israel, there is a new proposal to begin shipping Israeli natural gas to Egypt.  Texas-based Noble Energy signed a non-binding letter of intent with Unión Fenosa Gas (UFG – a Spanish-Italian joint venture) on May 5 calling for the shipment of 2.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from Israel’s offshore Tamar gas field over 15 years. The gas would be liquefied for export at Unión Fenosa’s Damietta liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant (20 percent owned by Egypt) before shipment to foreign markets by tanker, though the Egyptian government announced two days later that it had not yet issued the necessary authorization required for any imports of gas from Israel. Egypt’s Oil Ministry has said that any such deal would need to “serve the national interest of the country” (Wall Street Journal, May 6; Haaretz/Reuters, May 7).

The Tamar gas field is located 50 miles off the Israeli coast in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean and began production in March 2013. The largest partner in developing the gas field is Noble Energy, with a 36 percent share. Other partners include Israel’s Isramco Negev 2, two subsidiaries of Israel’s Delek Group and a subsidiary of Israel’s Dor Alon Group. The Tamar partners have already signed smaller deals to supply gas to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan’s Arab Potash Company and Jordan Bromine Company but have otherwise failed to find international markets for Tamar’s production. Turkey remains a potential customer for Tamar gas, but any deal with Turkish energy firms would come with its own political baggage, given the strained relations between Turkey and Israel.

Leviathan, a second Israeli offshore gas field, is owned by the same partners as the Tamar field. With twice as much gas reserves as Tamar, Leviathan is expected to go online in 2017 though financing has yet to be arranged due to the absence of large, long-term contracts with buyers. The Leviathan partners are expected to announce an export deal with foreign partners within three months. Tamar and Leviathan are expected to meet Israel’s domestic energy needs for at least the next 25 years.

The last natural gas deal between Egypt and Israel ended badly, with both parties entering arbitration before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) this year to resolve outstanding financial claims. In this earlier case, natural gas exports from Egypt to Israel were repeatedly interrupted by attacks by militants on the al-Arish to Ashkelon pipeline. The attacks began shortly after the January, 2011 overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak and continued even after the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) and the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) terminated their agreement with Israel’s East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) over a payment dispute following an Egyptian declaration of force majeure they claimed would excuse them from meeting their supply obligations.[1] By this time, there was massive popular opposition to continuing a deal to supply Israel with gas at below market prices that many Egyptians viewed as a prime example of the corruption that permeated the Mubarak regime.

There has been some discussion of using the existing pipeline to carry Israeli gas to Egypt until a proposed undersea Tamar to Damietta pipeline has been completed, though it seems likely the pipeline would again be the target of Bedouin and Islamist militants operating in the Sinai (al-Jazeera, May 8). Residual anger over this earlier contract is likely to help generate opposition to any new Egyptian gas project involving Israel. However, if the deal goes through, militants will have much greater difficulty interrupting the submarine pipeline than the exposed pipeline running through the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt is trying to deal with severe energy shortages during a politically sensitive time. Natural gas is used to generate most of the nation’s electricity and blackouts have become common since the 2011 revolution. With steadily diminishing production and an inability to attract sufficient investment to develop remaining reserves, Egypt is finding it impossible to meet both heavily subsidized domestic demand and its export commitments (Reuters, May 6; al-Bawaba, May 7). Several gas-producing Gulf nations supporting Egypt’s political transition have supplied Egypt with $6 billion in free fuel to ward off potential popular unrest created by energy shortages this summer (Reuters, May 6).

With Egyptian natural gas now being diverted to the domestic market, UFG’s Damietta plant has been offline since December 2012 (al-Jazeera, May 8). A second Egyptian LNG plant located at the Mediterranean port of Idko is operated by the British-owned BG Group, the losing bidder on the Tamar gas deal. Like the Damietta plant, the Idko plant is also running well below capacity due to supply shortages and was unable to export any gas during the first quarter of 2014. The Egyptian government’s decision to divert natural gas supplies to the domestic market is estimated to have cost Unión Fenosa and the BG Group billions of dollars in lost revenue and has prevented both firms from meeting their commitments to customers in Europe and Asia.

Following the U.S. imposition of sanctions on Russia, European countries dependent on Russian gas imports are now seeking alternative supplies, mainly from nearby Algeria. After Egyptian negotiations with Algeria’s government-owned Sonatrach were halted when European markets began expressing interest in Algerian gas following the Crimea crisis, Egypt turned to Russia’s Gazprom Company for supply, reaching an agreement to import Russian liquefied natural gas beginning this summer (Daily News Egypt, May 13). The favorable payment terms offered by Russia may be viewed as part of its effort to re-establish influence in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.

It remains uncertain whether any of the Israeli gas exported to Egypt would find its way to gas-hungry Egyptian markets or what the reaction of the Egyptian public might be to such a development. In the meantime, Unión Fenosa has brought its own complaint before the ICC over the Egyptian failure to maintain contracted payments as per its agreement and it is possible the BG Group will follow suit with reference to Egypt’s failure to supply its Idko LNG facility with natural gas. The BG Group has already declared force majeure for its Egyptian operations because of the government’s gas diversions and a $4 billion debt owed by the Egyptian government. Egypt has already faced 19 arbitration cases from international energy firms since the 2011 revolution, with most of these remaining unsettled. In the meantime, factories, businesses and retailers are all forced to reduce their hours of operation, damaging an already struggling economy. Alternatives to gas are being sought to supply Egypt’s energy needs as the high consumption summer months approach, including the use of coal and low-grade polluting petroleum products (Zawya [Dubai], April 15).

Note

1. Force Majeure refers to a party to a contract being relieved of their obligation to fulfill terms of a contract due an event or circumstance beyond the control of the party concerned that has resulted in the party failing or delaying its contractual obligations in circumstances that could not be prevented or overcome by the standard of a reasonable or prudent person or party. It excludes such relief (normally intended to be only temporary) in cases of negligence or malfeasance.

This article was published in the May 15, 2014 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Sinai Jihadists Respond to Egyptian Military Offensive with Statements and Suicide Bombs

Andrew McGregor

Terrorism Monitor, September 19, 2013

As the Egyptian military intensifies its campaign against militants and terrorists in the volatile but strategic Sinai Peninsula, their jihadist opponents have responded with a series of messages claiming the Army was using excessive force, destroying property and killing civilians. These statements of defiance have been backed up by several suicide attacks designed to dissuade Egypt’s security forces from pursuing the complete elimination of the various Salafi-Jihadi groups operating in the Sinai.

Egyptian Police Capture Suspected Militants in the Sinai (Reuters)

In a statement released on September 4, al-Salafiya al-Jihadiya fi Sinai disputed the reported arrests of al-Qaeda leaders in the Sinai, calling such reports “lies and silly fabrications” designed to “cover up the acts of treachery and betrayal committed by the Egyptian army blatantly and the crimes committed against the people of Sinai.” [1]The Salafist movement accused Egyptian authorities of borrowing methods used by the Israelis on the Palestinian population and acting under Israeli direction in targeting homes and mosques in the Sinai as well as demolishing other homes to create a buffer zone at the Rafah border point. The statement condemns in particular the shelling of the Abi Munir mosque in al-Muqata’a village (near the town of Shaykh Zuwayid). The movement says Egyptian troops fire indiscriminately, killing and wounding innocent parties, acts which make the Egyptian military “an assaulting apostate sect which should be deterred and repelled and this is what the mujahideen are doing every day with operations that are burning and breaking their forces.

A September 11 statement by the Jama’at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis militant group said the stated goal of the Egyptian Army in the Sinai, the liquidation of criminal and terrorist elements, was only a screen for its real purpose – the creation of a buffer zone “to protect Jews from any threats from militants in the Sinai and to prevent any strikes of the mujahideen against the Jews.” [2] The statement goes on to accuse the Egyptian Army of mounting its own campaign of terrorism and intimidation in the region through random shelling, arson, the destruction of wells, looting, indiscriminate fire and the repeated targeting of mosques without justification. All these acts are committed with the intention of serving “the interests of the Jews and to preserve their security.” The Egyptian Army has thus aligned itself with “the enemies of God and the enemies of Islam.”

A second communiqué issued by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis on September 15 decried the “displacement and terrorism launched by the Egyptian Army on the people of the Sinai” and claimed that the Army had committed a massacre of seven named civilians (including four children under seven years-of-age) who were killed by shellfire or under the treads of one of the 30 tanks the movement says the Army used to attack their village on the morning of September 13. [3] The statement claims the attack’s objective was to prevent the mujahideen from attacking commercial centers in Israel from the Sinai and was carried out on the orders of the American Army. The movement promised a “painful response” to the Egyptian Army’s “criminality and apostacy.”

The Egyptian Army’s use of armor, Apache helicopters and 20,000 troops to strike alleged terrorist refuges in the Sinai marks the greatest Egyptian military concentration in the region since the 1973 Ramadan War with Israel. Though the campaign was initially stated to have the purpose of eliminating radical Salafist jihadi organizations in the Sinai, the Army has expanded its mandate to include daily raids on homes believed to belong to opponents of July’s military coup (Mubasher Misr, September 13). The campaign is expected to last six months.

In an unusual development, but one that reflects the growing security cooperation between Israel and the Egyptian military, a delegation of Israeli security officials arrived in Cairo on a private jet on September 11 to discuss security issues in the Sinai with their Egyptian counterparts (Arutz Sheva, September 12). A statement from the pro-Mursi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy said the meeting was intended to coordinate efforts with Israel to kill innocent civilians, destroy local agriculture, displace residents and demolish mosques, “just like the Israeli army in the occupied territories” (Egypt Independent, September 16).

The militants have attempted to fight back, offering armed resistance in the villages and a mix of car bombs and suicide bombs to disrupt the Army’s campaign. Roughly 50 soldiers and policemen have been killed in the Sinai since July.

  • In a September 5 “martyrdom operation,” a bomb went off in Nasr City as Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim’s convoy passed, though Ibrahim, the intended target, survived (Ahram Online [Cairo], September 13). The group apologized to “Muslims in general and the relatives of the martyrs in particular” for its failure to kill Ibrahim, but promised further attacks would follow until this objective was achieved. The statement explained that the group was “working to establish the religion of Allah on Earth” while refusing to “take the road of pagan democracy.”
  • On September 11, two car bombs targeted the military intelligence headquarters in Rafah and a nearby military checkpoint, killing six soldiers and the two suicide bombers. The attacks were claimed by Jund al-Islam (MENA/Ahram Online [Cairo], September 7; AFP, September 13).
  • On September 16 a bus carrying Central Security Force conscripts was hit by either a roadside bomb or an RPG, injuring seven conscripts (Ahram Online, September 16).

Egyptian Army spokesman Colonel Ahmad Ali recently said the army had been surprised by the “sudden escalation in terrorist attacks” after the army took control of the country, though he denied the jihadists’ accusations the army had used excessive force in the campaign, remarking that if that was the case, “we would have finished terrorism off in 24 hours” (Daily News Egypt, September 15).

Notes

  1. Al-Salafiya al-Jihadiya fi Sinai, “Lying Agents,” Fursan al-Balagh Media, September 4, 2013, http://ansar1.info/showthread.php?t=46874
  2. Jama’at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, “The Egyptian Army – Criminality and Betrayal: Statement on the Extended Military Campaign against the People of the Sinai,” September 11, 2013, http://ansar1.info/showthread.php?t=46923
  3. Jama’at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, “Second Statement on the Extended Military Campaign against the People of the Sinai,” September 15, http://ansar1.info/showthread.php?t=46962
  4. Jama’at Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, “Battle of Revenge for the Muslims of Egypt: Assassination Attempt of the Egyptian Interior Minister,” September 8, 2013, http://ansar1.info/showthread.php?t=46902

 

Thirtieth Anniversary of Sinai’s Liberation Marked by Libyan Arms, Bedouin Militancy and a Growing Rift with Israel

Andrew McGregor

May 18, 2012

Though Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has just marked its 30th anniversary of liberation from Israeli occupation, the region is perhaps less integrated with the rest of the Egyptian state now than at any time since the Camp David Accords returned sovereignty of the Sinai to Cairo. An influx of arms from Libya and elsewhere is fuelling a growing insurgency amongst an alienated and disenfranchised population and deteriorating relations between Egypt and Israel are threatening to once more make the Sinai borderlands a battleground between these regional rivals.