The Egyptian army killed and arrested around 200 fighters in Sinai in the past few days, according to a source quoted in the daily Al-Hayat on Thursday.

Thirty-two Hamas men were among the dead and 45 Hamas members were among those arrested, according to the London-based pan-Arab paper.

Hamas sparked the fighting and is working in collaboration with Sinai-based jihadists, the source said. He admitted that the army was having difficulty controlling the situation there.

Some gunmen are entering Sinai through the Gaza tunnels to carry out attacks and then fleeing to Gaza afterward, he said.

Also on Thursday, an Egyptian Copt Christian was found decapitated in Sinai, five days after being kidnapped by gunmen, security officials and witnesses told AFP.

The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on media reports that 32 Hamas men were killed in Sinai, continuing its policy of refraining from formally commenting on the fluid developments inside Egypt.

Regarding reports that Cairo would ask Israel to allow it to introduce additional troops and weaponry into the peninsula, one official said that ever since Hosni Mubarak was deposed two years ago, there has been a continuous stream of requests from Egypt to allow in more forces and advanced weaponry to battle terrorists there.

Those requests, the official said, are dealt with by the IDF and the Defense Ministry.

The official said that this ad hoc way of dealing with the issue was better than opening the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty and formally changing the terms. The treaty specifies in great detail where Egyptian troops can be deployed, how many, and what arms they can have.

The Hamas government in Gaza strongly denied the report, calling it part of a smear campaign waged by the movement’s enemies.

A spokesman for the Hamas government said the report was aimed at driving a wedge between Hamas and the Egyptian people.

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