On Nov. 20, Egyptian troops and Bedouins battled for hours in Baloza,
and one gunman was killed and four others were injured. The shootout erupted
after 12 Bedouins were arrested in connection with smuggling weapons and
other goods to the neighboring Gaza Strip.
At one point, officials said, Baloza residents stormed a police patrol
and abducted two police officers. Hours later, one was released while the
other was held for ransom in exchange for the detained Bedouins. Baloza is
located about 200 kilometers from the Israeli-Egyptian border.
This marked the latest clash between Egyptian security forces and
Bedouin tribes in northern Sinai. The unrest has included Bedouin attacks on
police stations and patrols around El Arish as well as the blockage of key
roads between El Arish and the divided border city of Rafah.
Officials said the Egyptian Interior Ministry has expanded police
deployment in eastern and northern Sinai in an effort to halt weapons
smuggling to the Gaza Strip as well as the suspected growing alliance
between Bedouin tribes
and foreign Islamic insurgency groups. They said both Al Qaida and Hizbullah
have sought to recruit Bedouins for attacks against Westerners and Israelis
The Egyptian effort has been aided by the United States, which sent
equipment and trainers to track smuggling and locate tunnels between Sinai
and Gaza. Officials said the cooperation led to an Egyptian decision to try
to intercept smuggling convoys in western Sinai.