By Nasser al-Azazi
A joint operation led by the police and army continued on Sunday night for the second day of organised strikes against Sinai militants. Security forces combed the villages of Abu Lafita, Al-Garia, Al-Mahadia, Al-Tuma and Al-Muqata in southern Sheikh Zuweid and western Rafah, adjacent to Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip. The operation was described as the largest launched in the Sinai Peninsula in years.
Civil police, Special Forces, Counter Terrorism units, Commando units, in addition to Central Security forces all took part in the operation, accompanied by armoured trucks, bulldozers and Apache helicopters.
Houses and makeshift homes in the target areas thought to be housing combatants were searched and purged of all militant elements. Apache helicopters reportedly bombed locations near the Rafah border crossing on Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip.
Security sources stated that the campaign would last for several more days, until all militants had been removed from the region. The source added that one died, 11 individuals were injured as a result of the campaign, with 10 extremists arrested and 118 militant locations destroyed, including 3 arms depositories which held large amounts of weapons and ammunition. 35 vehicles thought to have been used in attacks against security checkpoints were also destroyed. Security forces also seized during the operation a number of mortars, explosive belts, bombs and fireworks.
All internet connections and mobile phone networks were shut down during the hours of the campaign, cutting Sinai off entirely from the outside world. All entrances and exits going into and out of the region from other parts of the country had also been blocked off, while North Sinai’s provincial capital Al-Arish was placed on lockdown beginning at 4p.m., with no one allowed to leave or enter the city.
An improvised explosive device (IED) reportedly exploded Sunday night in southern Sheikh Zuweid, near the vicinity of an armoured truck that was conducting a patrol of the area. Armed militants thought to have planted the IED were apprehended, while no casualties were reported as a result of the attack.