Item: Egyptian officers being held hostage in the Gaza Strip?
Information Date: 8/3/2013
Information: The wife of an Egyptian officer who was kidnapped in the Sinai Peninsula said she was advised by the President of Egypt to “be patient.” She says that her husband, who was kidnapped together with some of his colleagues, are being held hostage in the Gaza Strip by a Jihadist Palestinian group named Jeish Al-Islam that wants to trade the kidnapped men for one of the group’s activists who is currently imprisoned in Egypt.
Source Reliability: Evaluated as reliable
Information Validity: Likely to be valid
Relevant information: Similar information provided by a single source in November 2012 indicated that 3 or 4 Egyptian police officers were kidnapped.
Assessment: Jeish Al-Islam is based in the Gaza Strip and is associated with vast terror activity both inside the Gaza Strip as well as inside the Sinai Peninsula.
The groups’ backbone is the Daghmush family – one of the most powerful families in The Gaza Strip.
The group has been is involved in many terror attacks on Israeli targets as well as on Western targets inside the Gaza Strip.
Accumulating reports also indicate that the group is connected to the attack of the Jihadist Salafi groups on an Egyptian military post (August 5, 2012) which resulted in the death of 16 Egyptian soldiers. Following the attack, Egypt launched a military operation in the Sinai Peninsula against Jihadist groups based mostly in North Sinai. According to reports, Egypt also demanded that the Hamas government hand over for investigation a senior militant of Jeish Al-Islam including its leader Mumtaz Daghmush. To the best of my knowledge the Egyptian demand was not fulfilled.
The kidnapping and detention of Egyptian officers by a Palestinian terror group in the Gaza Strip put Hamas and Egypt further down the collision track. Clearly the kidnapping substantially damages Hamas’ interests. That being said, the question is why haven’t the officers been released thus far? And more important – why is the kidnaping kept secret by Egypt up until now?
A possible explanation is that Hamas wants to avoid an open confrontation with Jeish Al-Islam. Such a confrontation could deteriorate into a violent clash – as has occurred in the past.
Egypt is probably aware of that possibility and also prefers to avoid such a development.
Maybe because Egypt is concerned about the possibility that a violent clash in the Gaza Strip will spark a wave of violence (initiated by Jihadist Salafi groups) in the Sinai Peninsula with whom Jeish Al-Islam maintains close and firm cooperation.
It seems as if for now, both Egypt and Hamas seek to find a diplomatic solution to the kidnapping. But time is running out for Egypt’s president; it is likely that Egyptian public opinion will demand he act and release the officers.
In a possible connected event, it should be noted, that a court in the Gaza Strip ordered to reduce the sentence of two members of the Jeish Al-Islam group who were sentenced to life in prison for the killing of an Italian peace activist in the Gaza Strip in April 2011 (you can read about that event in my article “Making Friends with a Scorpion”). Perhaps the court’s decision is part of a package deal aimed to speed up the release of the Egyptian officers.
End of Bulletin