Egyptian sources reported Saturday that the military had regained control of an area in the northern Sinai Peninsula where the headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) was attacked on Friday night.
Fifty tanks and armored vehicles were sent to the North Camp base at El-Gorah, 16 kilometers from the Israeli border and 37 kilometers south east of El-Arish. The convoy’s mission was to protect the foreign troops, who are stationed in the area to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.
Four MFO officers were injured on Friday as dozens of Bedouin Salafi gunmen, in some 50 vehicles, stormed the base amid heavy gunfire. Two of those officers were taken to Israel for treatment.
First reports of the attack surfaced a little after 8 p.m. local time. Half-an-hour later, Channel 2 reported that Egyptian troops in 11 armored vehicles had arrived at the base, to try to help to restore order.
The TV report said four members of the MFO, all of them officers, were injured. It said some of them had been evacuated to Israel’s Soroka Medical Center, with at least one of them in serious condition. Three of the men were said to be of Colombian nationality. Earlier reports had erroneously suggested several fatalities in the attack.
- An MFO observation tower (photo credit: MFO)
The attackers were described as Bedouin jihadists, possibly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. First reports said Al-Qaeda flags were seen flying at the base after the attack. The attack was reported to have been motivated by Muslim anger at an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims,” which has sparked anti-Western protests in many Arab cities in recent days.
The TV report said the gunmen broke through the security perimeter of the base — “the first time anything like this has ever happened,” it said — and brought down two observation towers.
US forces dominate the MFO’s 1,650-strong personnel. The MFO’s mission is to oversee the arrangements for securing the Sinai as agreed by Israel and Egypt in their 1979 peace accords.
North Camp is the MFO’s largest installation and the site of the contingent’s headquarters.
Eleven other countries supply personnel to the MFO: Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, and Uruguay.
According to the MFO’s website, the North Camp “provides the required facilities for both the operational and logistical needs of the Force and Observers as well as a suitable living environment for military and civilian personnel. Covering approximately 2.7 square kilometers (660 acres), the camp contains such diverse facilities as aviation support buildings, a gymnasium, a theater, barracks, a fire station, administrative buildings, clubs, dining facilities, a Force Exchange, sports fields and a swimming pool.”
The area around the US Embassy in Cairo was quiet Saturday morning, reported Israel Radio, following four days of violent protests in the area that reached a crescendo on Friday with the death of two demonstrators.
Also on Friday, protests raged throughout the Muslim world in over 20 countries, where demonstrators lashed out at the US and other Western nations over an anti-Islam film that insults the prophet Mohammad.