Egypt, Israel locked in shark attacks ‘conspiracy’

Recent shark attacks in Egypt have shaken the tourist industry. But even these incidents could not escape the volatile politics of the Middle East. A conspiracy theory from the Egyptian side sees Mossad – an Israeli intelligence service, as being behind the dreadful cases of attacks on humans by the sharks.

According to the Newsweek, the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh has been hit by a spate of gruesome shark attacks, with one person killed. Authorities have been scrambling to reassure tourists that the issue is under control. But the shark is still on the loose, prompting some Egyptian officials to accuse outside forces of sabotaging the country’s booming tourism industry.

White tip shark

In an interview with a TV talk show, the governor of South Sinai, Mohammad Abdul Fadhil Shousha, suggested an idea that Mossad was behind the incidents. “What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark in the sea to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question. But it needs time to confirm,” he said.

A dive captain working in Sharm al-Sheikh has also suggested that the Mossad may have guided the shark into Egyptian waters through GPS tracking devices.

Israeli government officials have refused to comment on the conspiracy theory saying it is simply ludicrous.

“Israelis get blamed for a lot in this part of the world, but Egyptian officials have plumbed new depths of pottiness with their latest Zionist conspiracy theory,” said Dominic Waghorn at Sky News’ Middle East blog.

“The shark attacks have the potential to do some real damage to Egypt, where tourism is a pillar to the economy and an important  jobs provider. But the idea that Israel is behind the attacks is pretty farfetched,” Max Strasser said on the Foreign Policy Passport blog.

Several reasons – somewhat murky, have been advanced by different camps in a bid to explain the shark attacks.

“This is something I’ve never seen before. I have never had any sightings of sharks in the area and if we ever did, it was in the deep waters and not up on the beach,” said Nagy Arafat, the general manager of the Sharm el-Sheikh Marriott Hotel in Nama Bay. “We don’t see it affecting the tourism industry in any big way,” he added.

But Aviv Levy, a shark expert and the curator of the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat, said the Egyptians usually engaged in “smoke screening” when it came to shark attacks.

“Something is very strange here. The Egyptians are trying to hide it,” Levy told The Media Line. “This is very bad news for the sharks. It was strange after the first attacks last week and now even more so,” he said.

The shark is still to be caught

Marine biologists have speculated that a fisherman was likely chumming the waters in the area.  “They are taking away their fishing places and there are less fish so they are spreading their range of searching for food. This is when the sharks and humans meet,” Levy said. “But sharks usually recognize a person and turn around,” he added.

There have also been reports that a boat carrying sheep may have dropped some of its cargo in the area, drawing in sharks.

Badische Zeitung newspaper suggested one more version. It wrote that resort animators often took efforts to attract the sharks to the shore so that tourists could take pictures of them. As a result, the sharks started attacking tourists taking them for sheep.

Tourists could also illegally feed sharks during boat trips to make them swim closer to the boats. In addition, Egyptian divers often attract the sharks when diving to impress their clients.

However, scientists say it is “very unusual” for white tip sharks, who were seen by the victims, to strike at swimmers so close to the shore. But what is even stranger, they say, is that the attacks have all taken place in the middle of the day, the Telegraph reported.

As an opportunistic feeder, sharks tend to hunt throughout the day and night, and the timing of the attacks could suggest that the killers had become conditioned to expect food at certain times because of human interference.

Egypt’s scientific team failed to reach conclusions regarding recent shark attacks in Sharm al-Sheikh, declared Southern Sinai’s General Secretary Ahmed al-Itikawi at a press conference held on a Red Sea yacht. Al-Itikawi said the beach will remain closed until answers are found.

International tourism expert Ilhami al-Zayat described Egypt’s handling of the shark attacks as a catastrophe for Egypt’s international image.

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