'Egyptian army begins pulling tanks out of Sinai'

Day after Egypt says it's broadening offensive against militants, security officials tell Ma'an 11 tanks depart Sinai.

Egyptian tanks arriving in Sinai city of Rafah 370 (R) (photo credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters)
Egyptian tanks arriving in Sinai city of Rafah 370 (R)
(photo credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters)
The Egyptian army began withdrawing tanks from the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday, pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
The report comes just a day after Egypt's army said it would broaden its offensive against militants in the Sinai Peninsula, a campaign that has raised concerns in Israel about the movement of heavy armor into the area near its border.
After terrorists attacked and killed 16 border guards on Aug. 5, Egypt launched an operation using the army and police to raid militant hideouts, arrest suspects and seize weapons, including rockets and other arms, that are rife in the area.
Egyptian security sources said that 11 tanks had departed Sinai toward Beit al-Abid, following an arrangement with militants to cease hostilities, the Egyptian correspondent for Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
Disorder has spread in Sinai since President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow last year. Analysts say Islamists with possible links to al-Qaida have gained a foothold. This has alarmed Israel.
But Israeli officials have also privately voiced concerns about heavy equipment being sent to an area where there are restrictions on weapon deployments under a 1979 peace treaty.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy said on Monday that Egypt was committed to all treaties and, without naming Israel, said no other states should worry about its actions in Sinai.
"As of the morning of Aug. 29, in continuation of the military operation, there will be a redeployment of forces in various locations in Sinai to complete the hunt for terrorist elements," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
A military source said this would involve spreading security forces over a wider area to root out militants.
The campaign is led by the defense minister and head of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, appointed by Mosy in a shake-up of the military top brass on Aug. 12. The Islamist president has promised to restore order.
Sisi briefed Morsy on the Sinai operation on Monday.
The ministry statement on its website said 11 militants had been killed and 23 arrested in the campaign.
Reuters contributed to this report