Egypt Sends Reinforcements to Northeastern Sinai Following Continued Clashes

Gaza officials state Egypt seeks extradition of Salafi terrorists, following a report claiming that Egypt demanded extradition of top Hamas militants.

The Palestinian news agency Maan reports that Egypt has continued to send reinforcements to northeastern Sinai as the Egyptian military carries out two simultaneous operations. The first operation is centralized on the outskirts of El Arish, while the second focuses on the city itself. According to Maan, Egyptian forces have succeeded to expose terrorist hideouts, and exchanges of fire took place on the road between El Arish and Rafah. The agency also reported that 60 terrorists have been killed up until this point in the battle to clean up Sinai.

On Thursday, Egyptian Interior Minister Ahmed Jamal met with Sheikhs, tribal leaders in Sinai, and commanders of Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai. Jamal briefed them on the Egyptian governments intentions to act against terror in Sinai, and requested assistance in exposing terrorist elements in the peninsula.

Also on Thursday, east Jerusalem newspaper al-Quds reported that Egypt demanded the extradition of three senior Hamas militants, claiming they had provided indirect support to militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

Hamas did not officially respond to that report, however, senior Hamas officials in Gaza reported that the Egyptians have demanded the extradition of three heads of the Army of Islam, a radical Islamist group that has been active in the Gaza Strip for many years.  The demand came as a result of the Egyptians learning that one of the terrorists killed was a former member of the Gaza-based group. According to the same officials, the Egyptians demanded the extradition of Mumtaz Dormush, commander of the Islam army, and two of his followers, one of them a Yemeni citizen.

In the past, the Army of Islam cooperated with Hamas in terror attacks on Israeli targets, as well as the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. Hamas did not officially respond to the report, although one senior Hamas official confirmed that Egypt is requesting the extradition of the terrorists. It is still unclear how Hamas will respond to the demand, for numerous reasons, one of which the relations of Dormush with Hamas.

In the past, the Islam Army has engaged in armed conflicts with Hamas, following the Gaza kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government has stated that it has shut down the Christian satellite television channel el Faraon, after the channels director appeared in a broadcast message warning President Mohammed Morsi not to attend the funeral of 16 Egyptian soldiers killed in an attack near Rafah.

El Faraon and its director, Touafik Aksa, are generally very critical of the President. The Egyptian government stated that the channel will be shut down for a month, at the end of which it will be decided if its license will be revoked or not.

Egyptian border guards near Rafah.