Egypt’s ruler, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, denounced “foreign hands” whom he believes were behind the deadly car bombs that killed scores of security personnel in northeast Sinai on Friday.
The president, whose regime has been battling jihadist elements since the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi last year, declared a three-day mourning period throughout the country on Saturday.
In a televised speech to the nation, Sisi, who sat alongside his top generals and security advisors, lashed out at “foreign powers who are trying to break Egypt’s back.”
The president vowed “determined steps in fighting the extremists” as part of a campaign “that will take a long time.”
Meanwhile, an Egyptian newspaper reported on Saturday that the government plans to establish a buffer zone along the Sinai frontier with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Cairo has long suspected that Hamas has aided Islamist jihadists in Sinai, although the Palestinian group on Saturday denied that it had anything to do with Friday’s attack.
According to Al Yom a-Sab’a
, the Egyptian buffer will extend between 1.5 and 3 kilometers. The security forces will work to clear the area of underground tunnels leading to Gaza and it will also level any buildings and structures that could be used to conceal smuggling activity.
As part of the new plan, Egypt will also step up patrols along the Mediterranean coast, particularly in the area surrounding El-Arish and extending to the Gaza border town of Rafah.
The Egyptian report was first brought to the attention of Israeli media by Israel Radio.
Military forces in Sinai are also in the midst of an operation seeking to purge the peninsula of insurrectionist forces.