Egypt army masses troops in Sinai
Egyptian army trucks carrying tanks and vehicles, expecting opposition against militants, arrive at Rafah city. REUTERS Photo
Gunmen attacked a checkpoint in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Aug. 10, causing no casualties, as the army massed troops to quell increasingly deadly Islamist militants, according to a security source.
There were no further details on the overnight attack outside the El-Arish in a region that has been increasingly on edge since Aug. 5’s raid. Meanwhile, an Egyptian military source said on Aug. 10 that the armed forces had arrested “six hardliners suspected of belonging to a jihadist group” in the Sinai region during joint army and police patrols, Reuters reported.
Egyptian forces have succeeded in exposing militant hideouts, and exchanges of fire took place on the road between El-Arish and Rafah, daily Haaretz quoted Palestinian Maan news agency as saying Aug. 10. The agency also reported that 60 militants had been killed up until this point in the battle to “clean up Sinai.” On Aug. 9, trucks carrying dozens of armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns rolled through El-Arish heading to the east, where Bedouin militants have established a presence in villages near the borders with Gaza and with Israel. The buildup came after state television reported that military helicopters and soldiers killed 20 militants on Aug. 8 in the first such operation in Sinai in decades, in retaliation for an ambush which killed 16 troops, Agence France-Presse reported. Israel said on Aug. 9 it gave Egypt the go-ahead to deploy helicopters in Sinai, easing the restrictions on military presence in the peninsula set by a 1979 peace treaty between the neighboring countries.
At a late-night meeting with Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal al-Din in El-Arish, Bedouin tribal leaders demanded to see the bodies of the militants reportedly killed on Aug. 8. “We demanded that they present us the bodies, so we can be convinced,” said Eid Abu Marzuka, one of the Bedouin who took part in the meeting. Others said they doubted the report, which a military commander in Sinai had confirmed.
Rafah crossing reopened
However, the tribal leaders said they agreed to help the military and police to restore security in the peninsula and close down tunnels used to smuggle contraband and weapons to the Gaza Strip. “Let [the Islamist rulers of Gaza] Hamas be upset, we don’t care,” he added.
On Aug. 10, Egyptian state television said it had been decided to reopen the Rafah crossing in the direction of Gaza only, to allow people in Egypt to return home. It did not say how long the “exceptional” opening would last. A Hamas official said Egypt had temporarily reopened its border with Gaza but only to allow the passage of Palestinians back to the coastal territory. Among them were Palestinian Muslims who were returning from pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, The Associated Press reported.