Egypt Launches Major Offensive Against ISIS 'Terrorists' in Sinai

Few weeks ago, reports said Israel was helping Egypt win war against Islamists in restive Sinai by launching secret aerial raids

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Military forces and helicopters secure an area in North Sinai, Egypt, December 1, 2017. Picture taken December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Military forces and helicopters secure an area in North Sinai, Egypt, December 1, 2017. Picture taken December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El GhanyCredit: \ MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/ REUTERS

Egypt has launched a major security operation involving the army and police against "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" across the country, as well as protecting the country’s borders, the army spokesman said on Friday. 

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

"Law enforcement forces began this morning implementing the comprehensive confrontation against the terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in northern and central Sinai," an army spokesman said in a televised statement. 

Egyptian Army spokesman Col. Tamer al-Rifai said the operation also includes other parts of Egypt such as the Nile Delta and the western desert. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and the Interior Ministry ordered the comprehensive operation, said Rifai.

Rifai called on citizens “to cooperate with authorities and security forces to eradicate terrorism and to report anything that could harm security and the stability of the country.”

Since 2012, when the current wave of terrorism began in Sinai, the Egyptian army has conducted a number of large-scale operations in the region. It also increased its operations over the past year after a number of major attacks against civilians, soldiers and police, mosques and churches.  

>> Why Israeli fighter jets aren’t enough to solve Egypt's ISIS problem | Analysis <<

According to a New York Times report published last week, Egypt has permitted Israel to conduct over a hundred aerial attacks on the Islamic State group affiliate in Sinai, the desert peninsula that shares a border with Israel.

Last week, Rifai denied the New York Times report claiming Egypt sanctioned over 100 Israeli airstrikes in North Sinai in the last two years to aid combat the Islamic State.

In an interview to the Sada Elbalad newspaper, Rifai said Sunday that Egypt's security forces are the only ones combating terrorist in the area. Addressing media outlets in Egypt, Rifai requested they do not report unreliable information that was not approved by the Egyptian army.

The report details what it calls a "covert war" in Sinai in which "unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets" have been allowed to carry out over 100 raids inside Egyptian territory for over two years, at times more than once a week.

According to the report, American officials credit the wave of Israeli airstrikes – which the Times said began around the time that the Sinai Province branch of the Islamic State brought down a Russian charter plane over the peninsula, resulting in the deaths of the 224 people it carried – "with killing a long roster of militant leaders" in Sinai.

The Times cited as sources for its report "[s]even current or former British and American officials involved in Middle East policy," all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

In November 2017, over 300 people were killed in an attack on a Sufi mosque in the Sinai by the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate. Over 20 people were killed in September in an attack by Islamist organizations against a police convoy in Sinai. In May 2017, ISIS attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo and killed 29 passengers.  In April 44 people were killed by two suicide bombers at two Coptic churches in Alexandria.