Militants kill 24 Egyptian police in deadly Sinai ambush

Suspected Islamist militants ambushed two police minibuses in northern Sinai on Monday, launching rocket-propelled grenades that killed at least 24 police officers and injured three others. Egyptian authorities reported that the attack took place near the town of Rafah on the Egyptian-Israeli border, raising U.S. and Israeli concerns about heightened militant activity near the Gaza ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Suspected Islamist militants ambushed two police minibuses in northern Sinai on Monday, launching rocket-propelled grenades that killed at least 24 police officers and injured three others. Egyptian authorities reported that the attack took place near the town of Rafah on the Egyptian-Israeli border, raising U.S. and Israeli concerns about heightened militant activity near the Gaza Strip. The attack underscored the extent of ongoing violence in Egypt, which has claimed over 1,000 lives since Egyptian security forces stormed pro-Morsi sit-ins last Wednesday. Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Egyptian government announced that 36 Islamist detainees died in custody while attempting to escape from the police. The Interior Ministry said the prisoners "died of suffocation and crowding after tear gas was used to stop their escape," but the Muslim Brotherhood labeled the incident "murder" and "assassination." In response to the Egypt crisis, the European Union convened emergency talks on Monday in which it would "urgently review its relations with Egypt and adopt measures aimed at pursuing these goals." The Obama administration decided on Sunday to withhold economic assistance to Egypt, but so far is continuing the $1.3 billion annual aid package to the Egyptian military.

Syria

Suspected Islamist militants ambushed two police minibuses in northern Sinai on Monday, launching rocket-propelled grenades that killed at least 24 police officers and injured three others. Egyptian authorities reported that the attack took place near the town of Rafah on the Egyptian-Israeli border, raising U.S. and Israeli concerns about heightened militant activity near the Gaza Strip. The attack underscored the extent of ongoing violence in Egypt, which has claimed over 1,000 lives since Egyptian security forces stormed pro-Morsi sit-ins last Wednesday. Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Egyptian government announced that 36 Islamist detainees died in custody while attempting to escape from the police. The Interior Ministry said the prisoners "died of suffocation and crowding after tear gas was used to stop their escape," but the Muslim Brotherhood labeled the incident "murder" and "assassination." In response to the Egypt crisis, the European Union convened emergency talks on Monday in which it would "urgently review its relations with Egypt and adopt measures aimed at pursuing these goals." The Obama administration decided on Sunday to withhold economic assistance to Egypt, but so far is continuing the $1.3 billion annual aid package to the Egyptian military.

Syria

Over 20,000 Syrian Kurds have entered Iraqi Kurdistan since Thursday, and thousands more continue to migrate toward the area to escape the fighting in Syria. The increasing frequency of armed clashes between Syrian Kurds and Islamist opposition groups likely contributed to the exodus, though the reason for the rapid migration is unknown. The Kurdish regional government, UN organizations, and local NGOs are struggling to absorb the recent influx of refugees, which the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) claims is one of the single largest refugee movements since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011. Meanwhile, the state-run SANA news agency announced that Syrian government forces have retaken control of all rebel-held positions in Latakia. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that government forces made "progress," but could not confirm the government reports. On Sunday, a UN team arrived in Damascus to conduct a long-delayed investigation into the possible usage of chemical weapons in Syria. 

Headlines

  • Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be released from prison within the next 48 hours after being cleared from a corruption case, according to his lawyer.
  • Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal sacked well-known Kuwaiti television personality Tareq al-Suwaidan for his alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Iranian President Hassan Rowhani called for a foreign policy free of sloganeering in an attempt to distance himself from his outspoken predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Arguments & Analysis

Excluding the Exclusionary: Does the Muslim Brotherhood Have A Say in Its Future?‘ (Michael Gasper and Mohamed Yousry, Jadaliyya)

"If history is any indication, the current strategies like those the Brothers adopted during previous moments of political upheaval will fail to achieve the movement’s goals. One need look no further than their 1954 misreading of the political situation (i.e., believing that their group was more powerful and more popular than the Free Officers) that caused their defeat as Nasser detained thousands of Brotherhood members. Eventually, more than 1500 were sentenced to long prison terms and six were hanged. This inability to fully grasp the ramifications of their actions greatly weakened the movement at a time when it was facing increasing repression from the Egyptian state. Was the historical analog to this lesson the frightful violence perpetrated by the security forces against the two encampments of Morsi supporters this week?

With all of this in their history, it is perplexing that the current leadership has not learned from the past. Even more inextricable is that despite the caution from a prominent and ardent supporter, Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, a prominent Salafist preacher, many weeks ago on 27 June 2013, that the Brothers had lost much of their ability to mobilize the masses, they still do not have a realistic view of the present. Indeed it is quite clear that their support, even among Islamists, is dwindling and their popularity among ordinary citizens is very low. This explains at least in part the so far muted response among Egyptians about the violence of 14 August."

Viewpoint: Egypt No Longer Matters‘ (Bobby Ghosh, Time)

"Can Egypt reclaim its old place as the fulcrum of the Arab world? An opportunity arose two years ago. The Arab Spring was an import from Tunisia, but it once again made Egypt a laboratory of a new, powerful political idea: post-totalitarian democracy. Egypt’s size meant its democratic experiment would be watched more closely than, say, Libya’s. Alas, as we’ve seen this summer, that experiment has failed. Rather that show the way forward, Egypt is in full retreat. It now falls to Tunisia and Libya to show that the Arab Spring wasn’t simply a replay of the Prague Spring.

As for Egypt, it seems now that its main relevance in regional and global affairs is as a potential source of trouble. Its combination of instability, corruption and ineptitude makes Egypt fertile soil for radicalism and Islamist militancy.

And Washington should treat it as such. It should stop pretending Egypt is an important player in Arab affairs, and pay more attention to countries that are. It should stop giving the generals $1.5 billion a year. That money is better spent on countries where the democratic experiment still has a chance of success. Instead, the U.S. should prepare for the humanitarian crises that will inevitably accompany continued military brutality and economic misery. And it should be alert for the growth of a new Al Qaeda franchise on the Nile."

— Joshua Haber

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