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Islamist gunmen stage multiple attacks on Egyptian forces in Sinai

ByREUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
July 5, 2013 03:49

Attackers fire rocket-propelled grenades at Egyptian army posts.

Egyptian soldier guards checkpoint in Rafah in Sinai

Egyptian soldier in Sinai 370. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Islamist gunmen staged multiple attacks on security forces in Egypt's troubled Sinai Peninsula early on Friday, two days after the army overthrew elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, security sources and state television reported.

The security sources said a soldier was killed and two were wounded when a police station in Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip came under rocket fire. The police post is close to the local headquarters of military intelligence.



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Earlier, attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at army checkpoints guarding El-Arish airport, close to the border with the Gaza Strip and Israel, in the latest of a string of security incidents in the lawless region, the sources said.

A military helicopter fired a missile at one of the vehicles trying to attack the airport, Israel Radio reported. No casualties were reported as a result of the missile attack.



It was not clear whether the attacks were coordinated and in reaction to Morsi's removal. Islamist militants believed to have links to al-Qaida have established a foothold in the sparsely populated desert peninsula, sometimes in league with local Beduin smugglers and with Palestinian terrorists from Gaza.

Egypt has struggled to control security in the region since the ousting of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

On Thursday night, Eilat residents reported hearing explosions in the area, sparking fears of a rocket attack, however police had not located any fallen projectiles.

Two blasts were heard at around 9:30 p.m. throughout the southern city, according to witnesses, but the red alert rocket warning siren was not triggered nor were there any reports of injuries or damage.

Security forces launched a search of the area but said they could not confirm what caused the blast. Police informed local residents that it was safe to leave their bomb shelters about an hour after the blasts were heard.

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi said earlier on Thursday that while he does not envision Morsi's ouster posing a security threat to Israel, risk could come from Sinai, where decreased presence of the Egyptian army could present an opportunity for Islamist militants to act from the peninsula against Israel.

"This is a scenario that the IDF and the defense system are thinking about, and I'm sure are prepared for," Ashkenazi said, adding that for the time being, he sees no reason to interfere in Egypt.

Yaakov Lappin and Ben Hartman contributed to this report
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