Sinai Bedouin factions demand Egypt amend peace accord with Israel (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Zvi Bar´el 04/22/12)
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The heads of Bedouin communities in northern Sinai are demanding the
Egyptian parliament amend the Camp David Accords with Israel,
claiming they do not guarantee national security and do not provide
for the Bedouin population´s participation in security plans for the
The Bedouins´ demands were made on Thursday, when members of the
Egyptian national Security Council visited the coastal town of Al-
Arish to inspect the community´s economic situation and assess the
Earlier on Saturday, Israel´s Counterterrorism Bureau issued an
urgent warning to Israeli tourists in Sinai, urging them to leave the
peninsula immediately, citing a "critical and immediate threat."
"Based on information in our possession, terrorist organizations in
the Gaza Strip are continuing to work energetically to carry out
terrorist attacks against Israeli targets on Sinai´s beaches in the
immediate term," the Bureau said in a statement.
Last May, the Egyptian government was presented with a program to
include Bedouin elders in securing northern Sinai and putting a halt
attacks on the Israeli-bound-gas pipeline. The plan also stressed a
framework for dealing with radical Islamist organizations operating
freely in northern and central Sinai.
According to the program, each Bedouin faction or sub-faction would
enlist a group of at least twenty young men whose duty would be to
patrol and report on any suspicious activities in their respective
areas. These men would receive a salary from the security forces and
will be incorporated into the regional police force.
So far, the plan has not been approved, even though it may provide a
different recourse for Bedouins instead of weapon and refugee
smuggling and assistance to terrorist organizations.
Bedouin leaders have demanded the deployment of helicopters to Sinai
to track the movements of smugglers and terrorists, as well as an
upgrade of the cellular phone network which is today largely
dependent on antennae in Gaza and Israel. Yet their most important
demand is to open a free trade zone in Sinai and establish an
official and open terminal between Sinai and Gaza to replace the
current tunnel-based trade routes – a step that would also provide
employment to the local Bedouin community.
The Egyptian Parliament and the Supreme Military Council are aware of
the security risks in Sinai – a situation that may prompt an Israeli
intervention in the peninsula. The Egyptian government has recognized
the need for investment in Sinai´s resources, and according to local
reports has allocated about 100 million dollars for infrastructure,
industry and services in the area. However, the funds have yet to be
provided, and it is still unclear when they will be officially
As a result, Bedouins continue to be involved in smuggling and
providing assistance to terrorist organizations in order to make a
living – all while clashing with the Egyptian security forces, taking
over police stations or blocking roads.
The Bedouin issue has also become a theme of the Egyptian election
season, as all candidates have pledged in their speeches to develop
the Sinai region and reconcile the Bedouin communities. "[The
Bedouins] have played a major role in the war to liberate the Sinai
alongside the security forces," said the head of the National
Security Committee in Egypt´s parliament on Friday.
Mohammed Morsi - leader of the Muslim Brotherhood´s Freedom and
Justice Party, also spoke on Saturday of "our Bedouins" during a
press conference, where he announced his presidential bid instead of
Khairat al-Shater, who was disqualified.
Amr Mussa, the secular presidential candidate and former Secretary
General of the Arab League, also promised the Bedouin leaders he
would develop the peninsula, elevate the communities´ living
standards and cancel laws which have held them back for dozens of
However, despite all these promises and declarations, is is doubtful
that the Bedouin sector – 90 percent of which is unempoyed – will be
convinced any time soon. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 04/22/12)
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