An Egyptian soldier stands near the Egyptian national flag and the Israeli flag at the Taba crossing between Egypt and Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt continued to intensify its anti-terrorism operations across Sinai on Tuesday as it prepared to evacuate residents along the border with Gaza in order to create a buffer zone, Egyptian media reported.
This comes after at least 33 security personnel were killed on Friday on the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel and Gaza, in an attack on a checkpoint that bore the marks of assaults claimed by Egypt’s most active militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
A joint committee of the Egyptian army and the Rafah City Council surveyed houses located on the border with Gaza near Rafah in preparation for the evacuation of residents, sources in the committee told the Aswat Masriya website.
Over 800 houses and 10,000 residents have been surveyed, said the unidentified sources. Residents were offered financial compensation, land or housing in exchange for their evacuation.
The army intends to continue destroying tunnels in the buffer zone and dig a deep trench in order to attempt to put an end to the phenomenon, Al-Youm Al-Sabaa
reported on Tuesday.
The initial dimensions of the trench will be 14 kilometers in length and 500 meters wide, but is planned to be as wide as three kilometers in the final stage.
Egypt rushed special forces by air to Sinai to help combat the Islamist insurgency there, said an army spokesman, Ahram Online reported on Monday.
The army killed four suspected terrorists during military operations and captured 10 as it used Apache helicopters to destroy 33 terrorist hideouts, the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported on Tuesday.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had said on Saturday the military would respond with measures in the border area where a buffer zone is likely to be expanded to pursue terrorists and destroy tunnels used to smuggle weapons and fighters.
Egypt’s cabinet on Saturday proposed a measure that would allow the use of military courts to try civilians accused of offenses such as blocking roads or attacking public property.
Egyptian security forces on Sunday accused Palestinian gunmen from Gaza of taking part in the recent attack on its soldiers in Sinai. Egyptian media outlets quoted the security sources as saying that Egypt would target terrorist bases inside the Gaza Strip as part of its massive crackdown on Islamist groups.
Hamas officials strongly denied the charges, saying no Palestinian from the Gaza Strip was involved in the attack on Egyptian soldiers.
“We have no doubt that elements belonging to Palestinian factions were directly involved in the attack,” the Egyptian sources said.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Egypt sent out a security message on its website on Monday warning its citizens of a possible terrorist attack after an anonymous posting on a jihadist website encouraged attacks against Americans and Western schools and teachers in the region.
The jihadist website specifically mentioned Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Maadi, Egypt as places with high concentrations of targets.Khaled Abu Toameh and Reuters contributed to this report.