Although BBC audiences have heard nothing on the topic, analysts and media outlets in Egypt and Israel have been reporting for several weeks on increasing tensions between the ISIS affiliate in northern Sinai and local Bedouin tribes.
MEMRI reports that:
“In mid-April, armed clashes erupted between members of the Tarabin tribe and ISIS operatives. It appears that hostilities broke out over ISIS’s continuing efforts to impede the tribe’s cigarette smuggling activities. ISIS members kidnapped and flogged several tribe members who were smuggling cigarettes to Gaza and burned their vehicles. They also fired an RPG at a building which belongs to the Tarabin in the village of Al-Barath, south of Rafah. In response, On April 16, 2017, Tarabin tribe members surrounded Al-Barath, combed it for ISIS members and captured three of them, one of whom was released.
On April 25, 2017, ISIS reportedly detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint set up by the Tarabin, killing four people. This prompted the tribesmen to execute one of the remaining two captives by burning him alive. […]
A supporter of ISIS-Sinai who identifies himself as Abu Sumiyyah Al-Masri tweeted that ISIS would take revenge on the Tarabin tribe and threatened that their fate will be similar to that of the Shu’aytat tribe in Syria, hundreds of whose members have been massacred by ISIS.”
“According to a report in Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed of April 29, 2017, over the past three years, ISIS operatives have shot and killed 300 members of Bedouin tribes in Sinai and beheaded another 200 Bedouin for allegedly “collaborating” with the Egyptian army and police forces, in order to terrorize and frighten the Bedouins into submission.
The violent clashes between the Bedouin tribes and ISIS have created a new tension in northern Sinai, and the situation is escalating.
After ISIS members tried to kidnap a Bedouin from the Tarabin tribe on April 14, 2017, the tribe temporarily abandoned its smuggling activities and decided to focus on taking revenge on ISIS.
On April 29, 2017, the Tarabin tribe published a statement calling on all the tribes to unite in order to fight the terrorism that threatens Egypt. The statement said that the Bedouin tribes are connected by blood, religion, and homeland and that they can respond with force and strike “those who wear masks and guns, paid by external bodies who are enemies of the Egyptian state.”
Four Bedouin tribes responded to the call by the Tarabin tribe to unite against ISIS.
Ibrahim al-Raja’i, one of the leaders of the Tarabin, announced that his tribe, together with the al-Sawarakh and Ramilat tribes, agreed to clean out ISIS forces from Sinai, in coordination with the Egyptian army.
“We are determined to get rid of those who burn, kill, and rob in the name of religion,” said al-Raja’i.
In the coming days, a number of Bedouin tribes will come together under the leadership of Sheikh Abed Almagid Almaniya in order to fight ISIS and remove them from Sinai.
The greatest beneficiary of this tension between ISIS and the Bedouin in Sinai is the Egyptian army. Cooperation with the Bedouin tribes will provide Egypt with a great deal of intelligence about the activities of ISIS, which Egypt previously lacked.
Sources in the al-Sawarkah tribe told Al-Yawm al-Sab’a that a large number of tribe members were already fighting alongside the Egyptian army against ISIS. The danger to ISIS in northern Sinai will indeed increase if the Bedouin tribes cooperate with the Egyptian army in its war against the organization.”
Events in Sinai – including missile attacks on Israel and collaboration between ISIS and Hamas – have been serially under-reported by the BBC for a long time. Whether or not this latest apparent development will receive any coverage remains to be seen.