Unlikely Bedfellows
Egypt, Israel, and Hamas All Turn on ISIS in the Sinai

The ISIS branch in the Sinai Peninsula has had a run of luck recently, and that’s inspired unlikely cooperation against it. The Washington Post reports:

Hamas deployed several hundred fighters last week to Gaza’s border with Egypt’s lawless northern Sinai as part of a deal with Egypt to keep militants of the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — from entering the coastal enclave.

That came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his country’s decision to build a new barrier along the Israel-Egypt border, warning that “we would have been overflowed by thousands of ISIS fighters from Sinai.”

The growing concerns have given birth to the greatest cooperation between the militaries of Egypt and Israel since their 1979 peace deal, according to officials from both countries.

The question is whether the militants’ ambitions can be stopped or, at least, contained.

The well-armed affiliate — known as Wilayat Sinai — has grown bolder since it asserted responsibility for the October bombing of a Russian charter flight over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 aboard. The group has mounted a steady stream of attacks on Egyptian soldiers, overrunning military posts and targeting them with roadside bombs.
Israeli-Egyptian cooperation is nothing new; although it’s underreported, it is, as we’ve written before, one of the most important dynamics for understanding the Middle East today. For years, Egyptian and Israeli security forces have cooperated to keep a lid on Gaza and on other regional security issues.
What is new, and rare, is to see Hamas coordinating with the other two powers. Egypt perhaps even more than Israel hates and fears this armed branch of the Islamic Brotherhood, viewing it as a mortal threat to the regime. The Post is quick to note that the Egyptians and Israelis suspect Hamas of having some friendly dealings with ISIS in the Sinai, despite a two year old video in which the latter formally denounced the former, and it appears in this case some pressure was applied to get Hamas to cooperate: this is not a Hollywood buddy movie in which unlikely partners team up to take down the real bad guy. Nevertheless, Hamas has agreed to shut and man the border.
Lurking in the background of all this are signs of the trouble that Egypt has had containing ISIS so far. Though the Egyptian government boast of kill counts and similar anti-terror metrics, but both the Post account and older stories we’ve been following indicate the group has been and remains a potent source of trouble. It’s yet another unresolved problem for a crucial state that right now faces a host of them, from its security situation to its economy.
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