Sinai Checkpoint Attacked as Egypt Army Masses Troops
Gunmen attacked a checkpoint in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula overnight, causing no casualties, as the army massed troops to quell increasingly deadly militants, a security source said Friday.
At the same time, security sources said six “terrorists” had been arrested in the Sinai.
And Egypt temporarily reopened the Rafah border crossing into the Gaza Strip, which was closed after militants attacked troops on Sunday and killed 16 soldiers.
There were no further details on the overnight attack outside the town of El-Arish in a region that has been increasingly on edge since Sunday’s raid. State news agency MENA said six “terrorist elements,” who a security source told AFP were known hardliners suspected of belonging to a jihadist group, had been arrested during patrols in North Sinai province.
On Thursday, trucks carrying dozens of armoured personnel carriers mounted with machineguns 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. El-Arish and its environs were calm on Friday, an AFP journalist said. A number of armoured vehicles had taken up positions in the town, and a tank sat behind a barrier of sandbags painted with Egypt’s black, white and red national colours on which was written the slogan “victory or death.”
The build-up comes after state television reported that military helicopters and soldiers killed 20 militants on Wednesday in the first such operation in the Sinai in decades, in retaliation for the raid. Israel said on Thursday 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 neighbouring countries. At a late-night meeting with Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal al-Din in El-Arish, roughly 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of the Gaza border, Bedouin tribal leaders demanded to see the bodies of the militants reportedly killed on Wednesday.
“We demanded that they present us the bodies, just one or two 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.