Egypt, like many countries that support the destruction of Israel, has long been hospitable to Islamic terrorist groups that seek to carry out attacks against Israel. As many other Arab nations have discovered, this policy often does not work out as intended. Not only have the hosted terrorists been unable to make many successful attacks on Israel, but these same Islamic radical organizations tend to turn on their hosts. This happens quite frequently. Every decade or so Egypt has had to carry out a major counter-terror campaign to eliminate the Islamic terrorists who talk about destroying Israel but instead end up attacking the Egyptian government because it is not Islamic enough.
This time around the problem is more complex, because the terrorist group Hamas has been in control of Gaza (and 40 percent of the Palestinians living adjacent to Israel) and has been hosting even more Islamic terror groups inside Gaza. This includes Islamic terrorists who also want to turn Egypt into a religious dictatorship, no matter what the cost. Hamas tried to keep these anti-Egypt radical groups under control, but the best Hamas could do was convince the Egyptians that they were doing just that. Hamas lied, and the anti-Egypt terrorists have spread to the Sinai Peninsula (a largely desert area that lies between Gaza, and Israel, and the Suez Canal). In the Sinai the terrorists have joined with the Bedouin smuggling gangs and have been attacking Egyptian police and government officials. The Bedouin want to be left alone (something these nomads have been seeking for thousands of years) and the Islamic terrorists want to use the Sinai as a base area for attacks into the more populated parts of Egypt.
There are only about a million people in the Sinai and over 83 million in the rest of Egypt. About half the Sinai population is Bedouin, the rest are Egyptians who came as government officials or to work on the Suez Canal or the new tourist enterprises in the Sinai. Discriminated against by Egyptians, and feeling disdain for Egyptian culture, many Bedouin find themselves unable to get jobs and their traditional lifestyle (herding and trade) is no longer able to support all of them. Smuggling has always been popular and people are eager to get into Israel (for jobs) and terror groups in Gaza pay well for weapons. Terrorists in Sinai have cash and will pay for shelter and other assistance from Bedouin. In the last two years the number of terrorists operating in Sinai has gone from a few hundred to over a thousand. These guys have nowhere to go but Egypt because the Israeli counter-terror measures of the last decade have made it virtually impossible to carry out terrorist attacks inside Israel.
Since another popular uprising (backed by the military) overthrew the recently elected Islamic government in early July, the Sinai terrorists have been at war with Egypt. Despite vigorous and frequent military and police raids in Sinai, most of the terrorists there have remained hidden, except when they attack the security forces or government officials. Noting that some of these terrorists still had bases in Sinai, for the last month Egypt has been shutting off access from Sinai into Gaza. That means destroying over 300 smuggling tunnels and destroying all buildings from the Gaza border fence and 500 meters into Egypt. This makes digging new tunnels more difficult and easier to detect. The one legal crossing from Gaza to Egypt is shut much of the time and when open it is carefully monitored. The Egyptian Navy has more ships guarding the Gaza coast and now fires on boats from Gaza that try to enter Egyptian waters without permission.
The Egyptians are now doing what the Israelis have been doing since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 (two years after Israeli security forces pulled out). While Egypt has officially been at peace with Israel since 1979, the government has always supported anti-Israel attitudes in the media and among the population. Egypt also supported Palestinian resistance to Israel and has only, with great reluctance, cracked down on Hamas (which has always said its main goal was the destruction of Israel). Ever since Israel declared independence in 1948, all Arabs have been encouraged by their leaders to seek the destruction of Israel. This effort has been a colossal failure and has led to many Islamic radical groups that eventually turned on the Arab governments perceived as not eager enough to attack Israel. Thus, Egyptian leaders complain openly about their distaste for killing fellow Arabs while Israel remains untouched.