Egypt Security Forces Plan Crackdown on Israel Gas Pipeline Saboteurs

Armored vehicles, tanks, armed security personnel arrive in Sinai, witnesses say; security measures increased near Suez Canal.

Security forces in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula are planning to launch an operation to apprehend those behind a series of attacks in the northern town of el-Arish and stations that export gas to Israel.

Witnesses in el-Arish said they saw armored vehicles, tanks and armed security personnel arriving in Sinai on Friday. Some said there were increased security measures implemented near the Suez Canal. There was disruption to canal traffic, according to Egyptian authorities.

Egypt-Israel gas fire, April 27 2011, AP.

"Troops have arrived to support the implementation of random raids to arrest suspects involved in the recent police station attack ... as well as the perpetrators of bombing operations and outlaws," said a security source.

The source said the raids, dubbed "Operation Eagle", were imminent and would involve large formations of armed and military forces, without giving numbers.

Attacks on Egypt's energy infrastructure have escalated since President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in February. The main target has been the North Sinai pipeline, which also supplies Jordan with gas.

There were five recent attacks on Sinai's gas-exporting points to Israel, the latest on July 30. Egyptian authorities have blamed unidentified "saboteurs" and "armed gangs".

In July, security sources said about 100 armed men rode through el-Arish in cars and motorcycles waving flags with Islamic slogans. They attacked a police station and engaged in a shootout with policemen and soldiers.

Six people were killed. The official state news agency MENA cited a security official as saying Egyptians and Palestinians were among 12 suspects arrested.

The Gaza Strip, ruled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, borders Sinai to the north.