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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Egyptian Armed Forces launch a massive military operation in Sinai after deadly militant attacks

Egyptian Armed Forces in Sinai
(Image: The Daily Star)
Egyptian Sinai Peninsula was hit again with the series of deadly attacks committed by the militants against the military and security forces. Eight soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Northern Sinai at the beginning of this week, while Friday, 24 October, was marked with two violent attacks happened also in Northern Sinai. These attacks appeared to be the deadliest ones since the ouster of the Islamist backed President Mohamed Morsi.

Two separate attacks happened on Friday in Northern Sinai, killing 33 soldiers and injuring dozens of the servicemen. The first attack happened in Al-Kharouba, near Sheikh-Zuweid, which is next to the Gaza Strip border. A bomb exploded, targeting several military vehicles placed near the military facilities and loaded with live ammunition and heavy weapons. The explosion was very powerful, leaving 28 soldiers dead and almost 30 soldiers wounded. Egypt’s Ministry of Health reported later that Al-Kharouba attack left 30 soldiers dead, as some of the injured people were in critical condition. There were also senior officers from the Second Field Army, stationed in Ismailia, among the killed and wounded soldiers.

It’s worth mentioning though that the officials’ accounts differed at the beginning regarding the first bombing, as some sources reported the cause of an explosion was a bomb, while others claimed there was a rocket propelled grenade.

Emergency meeting held by Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and National
Defense Council
(Image: The Guardian)
Later on the same day the second attack took place, as unknown gunmen opened gunfire at the military checkpoint close to the city of Al-Arish, which is also close to the border with Gaza Strip. The fire killed three servicemen and left several injured.

The bodies of those killed were transported to Cairo for the honorary funerals, held on Saturday, 25 October, and attended by the highest officials of the state including Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Minister of Defense Sedki Sobhi, Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazy and families of the slain soldiers.

The wounded servicemen were transported with the helicopters to the hospitals of Cairo for the further treatment.

No militant group has claimed responsibility for the recent Sinai attacks yet, but the style of them is similar to the attacks of the powerful militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, operating actively in Sinai since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi and carrying out attacks against Egyptian Armed Forces and police.

These attacks appeared to be not only the deadliest attacks in the recent times, but also a serious challenge for the current government of El-Sisi, which clearly made some progress in fighting Islamist insurgency in Sinai and in the country nationwide and concentrated recently more on the economic and social issues.

Honorary military funeral for 33 soldiers killed in two deadly
Sinai attacks
(Image: Egyptian Streets)
Talking about the recent Sinai attacks, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi expressed his condolences to the families of the killed soldiers and expressed also deep concern over the growing threats of the Islamist insurgency in Sinai and also over the growing activity of the Libyan Islamists, operating near the borders with Egypt and posing a threat to Egyptian national security.

During the urgent meeting of the National Defense Council called by El-Sisi right after the attacks President El-Sisi issued a decree declaring three days national mourning in Egypt over the dead soldiers and officers and declared also state of emergency in Northern Sinai, giving the special authorities to the Armed Forces and police in their confronting terrorism. 

Due to the critical situation El-Sisi also gave Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb the additional powers to act in Sinai according to the state of emergency. It’s worth mentioning that police and security forces have an authority to take any actions necessary to fight terrorism under the terms of state of emergency. In addition to that curfew will be imposed in the area, which will last from 5 p.m. till 7 a.m.

Egyptian Armed Forces launch a massive militayr operation
to fight terrorists in Sinai
(Image: AP)
Egypt’s Armed Forces also launched a massive military operation in Northern Sinai. Special troops and the Apache helicopters are involved in the special operation aimed at targeting the militants’ hideouts and destroying their network in order to eliminate the terrorist activities in Sinai and to restore security and safety in the region. Military helicopters launched airstrikes, bombing the alleged positions of the terrorists in the areas south of Sheikh-Zuweid and Rafah, next to Gaza border. Saturday airstrikes have killed at least eight suspected militants, while Sunday attacks left five suspected militants dead and eight wounded, according to the security forces statements.

Military operation is currently ongoing in Northern Sinai, as Egyptian government actively works on changing the strategy in Sinai due to the serious threats of the growing local Islamist insurgency and the possibility of the infiltration of the IS militants in Sinai as well. Egyptian government representatives have taken a decision on Saturday, 25 October, to draft amendments in the military judiciary law in order to empower Egyptian military courts to try terrorist-related cases.

Meanwhile, Egyptian government considers also new strategies for restoring security in Sinai and preventing the possibility of spread of the IS terrorist activity in the region. Among the latest decisions regarding this issue is creating of a special buffer zone in Sinai allowing Egyptian Army to control the area. Though, this issue appeared to be a hard task, as Egyptian government needs to relocate several hundred local Bedouins from Sinai in order to establish the buffer zones.