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Egypt plans operation against terror in Sinai

July 12, 2013 20:02

Report says Cairo is planning to "cleanse" area of northern Sinai of militants but would first give them chance to surrender.

Egyptian army near El-Arish in the Sinai peninsula, May 21, 2013.

Egyptian army in Sinai 370. (photo credit:REUTERS/Stringer)

An Egyptian security source said on Saturday that five gunmen were killed by the military, the state-owned MENA news agency reported. This follows an announcement by the Egyptian military saying it is planning an imminent offensive in Sinai against hardline Islamist terrorists.

The army’s actions comes after suspected jihadists killed an Egyptian police officer and wounded a second in an attack on a checkpoint in the peninsula on Friday.

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Terrorists have staged almost daily attacks on security checkpoints in Sinai since the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Arab daily Al-Hayat reported on Friday that the Egyptian military decided to go ahead with a plan of “cleansing” Mount Halal in Sinai, which houses “armed gangs and terrorists.”

Such an operation would include artillery and air power in order “to resolve the battle quickly.”

However, the army would first give the Islamists a chance to surrender.

Meanwhile on Friday, an Egyptian military helicopter briefly crossed into Israeli-controlled airspace over the Gaza Strip. Security sources in Egypt and Israel both described the flyover as a navigational error.

“The helicopter mistakenly crossed into Gazan airspace and immediately returned to Egypt,” the Israeli security source said. Witnesses in Gaza said it stayed on their side of the border for about 10 minutes before returning.

Separately, Egyptian authorities arrested three Palestinian gunmen on Friday during “an attempt to attack vital sites in Sinai,” Egyptian state media reported.

Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on Friday that Sudan thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons and ammunition into Egypt.

Another step reportedly taken by the Egyptian army to quell terrorist attacks in the peninsula was closing the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip “indefinitely,” according to an official source talking to Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, denies Egyptian accusations that it has an armed presence in Sinai.

It remains unclear when such an offensive will take place, as the military is heavily focused on maintaining order in the streets of Cairo, where its tanks are deployed, following Morsi’s overthrow.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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