In Major Shakeup, Egypt's Morsi Fires Intelligence Chief, Sinai Governor

Following Sunday's attack in which 16 Egyptian policemen were killed, Egyptian president dismisses a string of key security officials.

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Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi fired his intelligence chief and the governor of Northern Sinai on Wednesday following the deadly weekend attack on troops by suspected militants in Sinai.

In a major shakeup, Morsi also asked Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi to replace the commander of the military police, a force that has been heavily used since the ouster 18 months ago of Hosni Mubarak.

He also fired the commander of the presidential guards and named new chiefs for security in Cairo and the police's large central security, a large paramilitary force often deployed to deal with riots.

The changes followed the killing on Sunday of 16 soldiers at a post in Sinai along the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip. The attack raised questions about the readiness of Egyptian forces in the area, particularly after Israel warned the country several days earlier of an imminent attack.

The attackers killed the soldiers as they were breaking their daily fast for the holy month of Ramadan fast with a sunset meal. Their attackers commandeered an armored vehicle which they later used to storm across the border into Israel, where they were targeted by an Israeli airstrike.

The intelligence chief that Morsi fired, Murad Muwafi, was quoted in Wednesday's newspapers as saying his agency was aware of the Israeli warning but did not think that Muslims would attack Muslims while breaking their fast during Ramadan.

Wednesday's decisions were announced hours after Egyptian attack helicopters carried out missile strikes against militants in Sinai as part of an offensive to restore control over the territory, according to a military statement.

The use of air power marked a sharp escalation in Egypt's fight against the militants, who have become increasingly active in the mountainous and desert peninsula, which borders Israel and Gaza.

In a statement read on state television, the military said it had started a joint military-police ground operation in Sinai, backed by warplanes, to "restore stability and regain control" of the Sinai.

At least 30 insurgents were killed in strikes launched by Egyptian warplanes in the Sinai Peninsula, a senior security official told Germany news agency DPA.

Security forces also raided hundreds of houses in the Sheikh Zuwaid area near Gaza, searching for weapons and militants, the independent newspaper al-Youm 7 reported.

The militants were reported to be fleeing deep into the mountains, away from the northern coastal towns near the border with Gaza where they attacked several security checkpoints late Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Egypt's Minister of Information Salah Abd Al-Maksoud ordered all TV stations in Egypt to refrain from interviewing Israeli pundits following the event in Rafah. The decision was made after an Israeli was interviewed by one of Egypt's satellite stations on Wednesday. The directive ordered stations to interview and host Arab pundits and guests only .

Read this article in Hebrew

Egyptian security forces stand by their Armored Personnel Carriers ahead of a military operation in the northern Sinai peninsula, August 08, 2012.Credit: AFP

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