Egyptian soldier sits on a bulldozer near Rafah 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A senior Egyptian defense source told the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that the military was gearing up to launch a large-scale, "decisive" operation against radical jihadist elements in the Sinai Peninsula in the next few hours.
According to the report, the military will focus on nine terrorist strongholds in the northern Sinai, where an estimated 200 gunmen have taken positions. The London-based newspaper also reported that Egyptian attack helicopters struck targets near Rafah.
Egyptian troops and helicopter gunships attacked Islamist militants in the Sinai on Friday in a drive to crush a security threat now spilling over into the rest of the country.
Three soldiers were wounded in clashes in three separate villages, security officials said.
Islamist militant attacks have increased in the desert region adjoining Israel and the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in Egypt since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 following mass protests against his rule.
Rocket and grenade attacks on soldiers and policemen take place in the Sinai nearly every day and about 50 have been killed since July. A Sinai-based militant group claimed responsibility for a failed suicide bombing attack on the interior minister in Cairo last week.