Egyptian soldiers move into El Arish, northern Sinai.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Egyptian military has launched an operation in the lawless Sinai peninsula to counter terror and violence against security forces which has intensified in the area since the overthrow of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian media quoted military sources as saying Saturday.
Operation "Desert Storm" comes amid a spike in attacks in Sinai which have killed around 20 policeman and soldiers since Morsi's ouster on July 3.
During a tour of the southern border on Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that Egypt was poised to launch a large counter-terrorism operation
against radical Islamic cells in Sinai.
“We receive reports of terror attacks from there every day, and the concern is of course that the barrels will be turned against us,” he said. “We have strengthened our preparations along the border, and here in Eilat, we mobilized an Iron Dome battery in case someone dares fire at the city.”
The defense minister added, “I hope that the Egyptian security forces overcome the challenge of extremist Islam in Sinai. They have beefed up their forces and are preparing for an assault operation. I hope they succeed in dealing with the security situation in their territory.”
Ya’alon stressed that Egypt has inserted additional military forces – including assault helicopters – into Sinai after receiving permission from Israel, in line with the peace treaty between the two countries.
Israel has approved the Egyptian requests because “they really are directing these forces to fight terrorism,” Ya’alon affirmed.
“We see more effective activities by the Egyptian army and security bodies in recent months, particularly in recent weeks following the regime change that occurred,” he added.
The process will likely go on for “longer than what we’d like to have seen,” Ya’alon said.