As the war between Israel and Hamas rages in Gaza, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has come into the spotlight. Israel, backed by the US and its allies, see it as an alternative homeland for Palestinians who are urged by Israel to flee the war into Egypt, practically expelling them from Gaza. Egypt has categorically rejected such a move, on grounds of guarding its sovereignty and national security.
Sinai has a recent history of being a hotbed of Islamist Jihadi and Takfiri insurgents who, especially during the post-2011 Arab Spring Muslim Brotherhood rule, were given free rein to barricade themselves in its rugged, mountainous terrain. Once Egypt rid itself of Islamist rule in 2013, a bitter prolonged fight took place between Egyptian forces and Sinai’s Bedouin tribes on one hand, and the Jihadis on the other. It is only fairly recently that this fight was won by Egypt, and Sinai was purged of Islamist terrorism.
On 31 October 2023, Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly flew to North Sinai, accompanied with a delegation of senior State officials. At the headquarters of Battalion 101 in al-Arish, he met tribal leaders of Sinai, politicians, parliament members, and media professionals. The purpose of the visit was obvious: to talk to the Bedouin leaders and listen to them, reassuring them of full State support and commitment to security and development, endeavours that had started as far back as 2014.
The tribal leaders expressed their commitment to work hand-in-hand with the government and security forces to combat terrorism and ensure the safety of the local population.
As to the pivotal issue of development, PM Madbouly stressed that “the only thing that can protect a place [such as the sparsely populated Sinai] is for it to develop, populate, progress, and thrive.” Only then would no one think or even dream of coveting it.”
Mr Madbouly talked of Egypt’s ongoing work to develop Sinai even as the vigilance and fight against terrorists continues. Projects worth EGP283 billion had been implemented in fields of infrastructure, schools and universities, health services, youth development, and others.
Once President Sisi had announced in February 2023 that Sinai had been almost completely purged of terrorists, he declared a strategic plan for the development of North Sinai. “Today, I officially launch it,” Mr Madbouly said.
He said that Egypt aims to implement over 300 development projects worth EGP363 billion in North Sinai until 2030 in fields such as infrastructure, education, health services, ports and airports, trade and logistics, irrigation and agriculture, urban and industrial development, and tourism.
Mr Madbouly detailed some of the projects, citing six tunnels underneath the Suez Canal to connect the peninsula to the mainland; residential clusters that respect local Bedouin traditions, an international-standard commercial port in Arish, also an international airport in Arish; and a railway from Taba to destinations all over Egypt.
31 October 2023