The recent escalation of terrorist attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has received widespread international attention, but is not a new phenomenon. MEI’s History of Terrorism in Sinai, which includes an interactive timeline and map, follows terrorist activity - by location, method, target, and associated group - in this geopolitical hotspot over the last decade. Because of the nature of the security crisis in Sinai, this is not a comprehensive record, but a curated account of the most relevant attacks and events that have been reported to date.
Legend: Location of attack Target of attack Responsible group Method of attack
The Sinai Peninsula is located between the Suez Canal and the Arabian Peninsula. Although Sinai is geographically isolated, it links key states such as Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Owing to its geopolitical importance, it was a battleground in every war between Egypt and Israel from 1948 until 1979. The 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel returned Sinai to Egypt, and has prevented large-scale Arab-Israeli military confrontations for more than 30 years.
Escalating Instability in Sinai
Egyptian authorities have lost control of large swathes of Sinai since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. A security vacuum has allowed for increased organizational and operational capacity of terrorist groups in the area. Additionally, extremism has been on the rise since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July 2013 and the subsequent crackdown on political Islam and Islamist parties. Terrorist groups tend to target state infrastructure and security forces, coordinating with local Bedouin who have long harbored grievances against Cairo due to years of marginalization and mistreatment. Attacks often target police stations, checkpoints, government offices, and the Arab Gas Pipeline between Egypt and Israel in north Sinai. Profiting from the region’s general lawlessness, some Bedouin populations engage in human, arms, and drug trafficking.
Key Events by Period
- Major Attacks on Tourist Resorts in 2004, 2005, 2006
- Rocket Attacks on Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan
- Pipeline Attacks Escalate
- Infiltration of Israeli Border by Terrorists Heightens Security Tensions
- Military Launches Major Counter-terrorism Operation in Sinai
- Heightened Concern Over Safety of Egyptian Security Forces
- Assassination of Mohamed Said, Senior Aide to Minister of Interior
- Renewed Crackdown on Gaza Tunnels
- Terrorist Groups Show Increased Operational Capacity
- Bombings Hit Cairo
Implications of Instability
The escalating and expanding nature of attacks by terrorist groups based in Sinai is of growing concern to Egypt, its neighbors, and the international community. To address the mounting threat, Egypt launched Operation Sinai in August 2012, the largest military campaign on the peninsula since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Defense Minister Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi has that “the Armed Forces will never allow any threats against Sinai, and its sons are ready to sacrifice their lives in order for Sinai to remain part of Egypt and never depart from it.”
Operation Sinai is an ongoing Egyptian military campaign aimed at increasing security within Sinai, along its international borders, and along the Suez Canal. First launched in August 2012 in response to an Egypt-Israeli border attack, the military campaign’s primary goal is to root out Islamic militants who threaten security in the international border region. Operating with Israel’s approval, it is the largest military campaign in Sinai since the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
- Sinai: Tipping Point or Pretext for Ouster?, by Sahar Aziz for The Middle East Institute
- , by Zachary Laub for Council on Foreign Relations
- [PDF], by Zack Gold, for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings
- [PDF], by Gabi Siboni and Ram Ben-Barak, for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings:
- , House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
- , by Vivian Salama, for The Atlantic
- , by Sarah el-Rashidi, for the Atlantic Council
- , by Ehud Yaari, for the Washington Institute
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