Egypt army denies curfew in two North Sinai towns on Israel and Gaza border

Egypt army denies curfew in two North Sinai towns on Israel and Gaza border

CAIRO - Reuters
Egypt army denies curfew in two North Sinai towns on Israel and Gaza border

Palestinian Hamas security forces patrol near the border with Egypt in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on July 5. An Egyptian soldier was killed early today in coordinated rocket and machinegun attacks by Islamist militants on army checkpoints and a police base in the restive Sinai, medics said. AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB

Egypt's army denied a report that curfews had been imposed in two North Sinai towns on the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip on July 5. 

"Nothing has been issued," an army spokesman told Reuters when asked about the report on state television that a curfew had been imposed in the towns of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah.

State television reported earlier that Egyptian authorities have imposed a curfew in both North Sinai towns.

Islamist gunmen had attacked armed forces guarding the nearby El-Arish airport earlier today. Five police officers were shot by gunmen while they were guarding a government building, a checkpoint on the southern outskirts of the town, and the hospital, Reuters reported quoting medical sources.

It was not clear whether the attack, and another on a police station in the nearby town of Rafah, on the Gaza border, were in reaction to the army's overthrow of elected President Mohamed Morsi on July 3. 

Egypt has struggled to control security in the Sinai peninsula since the ousting of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Hardline Islamist groups have exploited the collapse of state authority after the uprising to launch attacks into Israel and on Egyptian targets. 

Troops were "on alert" in the peninsula, a military spokesman said, but he denied a report by the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper that a state of emergency had been declared in Suez and South Sinai provinces.

"We were already very prepared in this important strategic region," a military source said. "The announcement is just to assure our soldiers and people that we are ready in Sinai. As for Suez we are always in an alert state there."

The head of the Suez Canal Authority, who oversees the key world trade route, said it was operating normally with no disruption to cargo traffic. Mohab Mameesh said 48 ships had passed through the canal on July 5.