Reports: Egypt Begins Withdrawing Forces From Northern Sinai

In meetings with Morsi representatives, Islamist militants agree to turn over foreign jihadists, as sides agree to halt attacks against each other.

Egypt on Wednesday began withdrawing forces from northern Sinai, according to Egyptian media reports.

The Egyptian army launched the operation in Sinai following an attack by militants in early August in which 16 Egyptian border policemen were killed.

The decision to move forces into the peninsula was made without coordination with Israel and in violation of treaties between the two countries. However, Israel decided to address the issue quietly, instead of making a diplomatic incident out of it.

According to reports published in Egyptian media, following the first wave of arrests and liquidations the Egyptian forces apparently lacked intelligence as to the whereabouts of terrorist leaders.

Egypt's army announced on Wednesday that it planned to expand the operation into new areas of the peninsula. However, events on the ground indicate that the opposite is actually taking place.

In addition, Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi has reportedly sent emissaries, some of them former members of extremist Islamist organizations, to meet with Islamist radicals in Sinai on his behalf.

In those meetings, which took place in northeastern Sinai, the sides agreed to halt their attacks against each other, and the jihadist groups agreed to turn over non-Egyptian militants to the authorities.

Meanwhile, Israeli Army Radio reported on Thursday that, in light of the recent incidents near the Israel-Egypt border, the IDF is planning to institute a 300-meter sterile zone along the border fence.

Egyptian tanks are seen being carried on the back of trucks on the Egyptian side of the border city of Rafah on August 29, 2012.Credit: AFP

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