By: Ali Omar
Egyptian forces destroyed four tunnels and six small houses in Egypt’s troubled Sinai peninsula Saturday, said a spokesman from the army. The act comes a day after a roadside bomb struck an army convoy, killing one soldier and injuring two others, after which three suspects were arrested.
The independently-owned Al Shorouk also mentioned that a number of suspects were arrested and trees were removed following the event on Saturday, although army sources could not confirm this.
Tunnels leading to Gaza, as well as the Rafah crossing, were widely accessible during Mohamed Morsi’s year-long presidency. After his ouster, a campaign by Al Qaeda-inspired militants has devastated the mountainous and isolated region. Weapons, resources, and smuggled items are easily able to move back and forth between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Late December, one of the biggest groups operating in the region, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, issued a warning to members of the police and armed forces in the region, demanding that they “repent from participating in the making of this infidel bastion that is at war with God and his Prophet, and stop serving in its ranks”.
Shortly afterwards, a car bomb struck the Daqahleya Security Directorate in the Nile delta city of Mansoura, killing 16 and injuring over 130. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack.
State-owned MENA reported army spokesman Col. Ahmed Ali as saying that over 180 “terrorists” were killed, 203 wounded, and 835 arrested from August to December.
Although most of the tunnels leading to the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, the privately-owned Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted on 18 December that the army has suffered 260 fatalities in its ongoing struggle against the militants, including those resulting from a car bomb targeting a bus full of army conscripts on 20 November, which caused the death of 11 and injury of 37.
Former president Mohamed Morsi is scheduled to go on trial on 28 January. Amongst other charges filed against him, he is accused of conspiring with Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently holds power in Gaza.