The Egyptian government began a series of talks with the sheikhs of Bedouin tribes in the Sinai Peninsula, in a bid to gain their support to eradicate terrorism and extremist thought among the region's youth.
Defence Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Interior Minister Gen. Ahmed Gamal al-Din made frequent visits to Sinai this month to meet with tribal sheikhs and local leaders.
In an August 10th meeting, Gamal al-Din appealed to the tribal sheikhs of Sinai to co-operate with the security forces in their campaign to capture or kill armed elements in the Sinai.
"The honourable people of Sinai have a major role to play in protecting the Sinai and Egyptian borders considering their proud history throughout the ages," he said.
Sinai resident Ashraf al-Hefni said many Sinai residents paid a heavy price because of the spread of extremism in the Sinai, as many families have lost a relative.
"The government must clearly identify its enemy and we will stand with it as a bulwark against extremism and its repercussions," he said, adding that the government has the right to hold those who spread extremism and carry arms against its army accountable.
Ahmed Oleiba, a writer who specializes in terrorism issues and who recently visited the Sinai, also highlighted the need for co-operation among people in the Sinai and security services in the effort to arrest the gunmen behind the recent attacks.
"The sheikhs know where the gunmen come from and how [these men] are recruited by [extremist] groups, and the proof is that two tribal sheikhs were killed by armed groups recently," he said.
On August 13th, masked gunmen killed Sheikh Khalaf al-Menahi, a leader of the Sawarka tribe, in the city of Sheikh Zuwaid in northern Sinai after he announced his support for the security campaign being conducted by the army and police.
Sheikh Nayef al-Sawarka, a member of the same tribe, was killed three months ago by gunmen, apparently after he released statements denouncing terrorism.
Egypt's military campaign and the new talks accompany efforts to support long-term development in the region, including the allocation of two billion pounds ($329 million) from the government's 2012-2013 budget to develop the Sinai and the launch of the National Agency for the Development of the Sinai Peninsula.
Experts told Al-Shorfa that in order to eliminate extremist ideology in the Sinai, an integrated policy of short-term military operations and long-term economic and social development is needed.
"The beginning of the development process along with the formation of a popular front in the Sinai to combat terrorism could deal a severe blow to the gunmen, especially as the Sinai is a tenuous border region where security solutions alone will not suffice and must be accompanied by efforts to address the root of the problem," Oleiba said.
Bahey Eddin Hassan, head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said the anti-terrorism campaign in the Sinai should factor in "political, economic, developmental and religious factors that created an environment conducive to terrorism, and exacerbated the phenomenon and its cancerous growth in the peninsula".
It is important to maintain constant dialogue with Sinai tribesmen and ensure they are properly represented in the National Agency for the Development of the Sinai Peninsula, he told Al-Shorfa.
According to Hassan, combating terrorism in the Sinai requires an integrated package of policies that begins with engaging the tribes and the people of the Sinai in the development process so they become guardians for their cities.
The values of citizenship also need to be strengthened in the Sinai, by giving residents full political and civil rights, including gaining access to government positions, enrolment in police and military academies, he said.
Hassan added that area residents are seeking greater economic, social and cultural rights so they are on equal footing with the rest of the Egyptian population.
Dr. Nageh Ibrahim, a theorist for the Islamic Group that issued intellectual revisions renouncing the use of violence in 2002, said takfiri thought often spreads in areas that lack resources and are rife with poverty and illiteracy.
"The proliferation of illiteracy in the [Sinai] helped to spread takfiri thought, given the lack of scholars or religious leaders specialising in sharia," he said. "Northern Sinai also suffers from high levels of poverty and unemployment, which created resentment among youth in the region and drove some of them to takfiri groups, who took full advantage of these circumstances."
The Sinai Peninsula stretches about 60,000 square kilometres and comprises two provinces, North and South Sinai. The region's population is estimated at 380,000 and the area has a wealth of raw materials, including large deposits of minerals like iron, shale, marble, and limestone. These resources are largely undeveloped.