Forty-seven ISIS-affiliated fighters and five Egyptian soldiers were killed in fighting in the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian army announced yesterday.
The ongoing military campaign aims to clear all militants connected with ISIS from the northern and central parts of the Sinai. In the latest offensive, the Egyptian Air Force targeted and destroyed 29 hideouts and 97 off road vehicles and arrested 158 “criminal suspects”.
The armed forces also discovered and detonated 385 explosive devices planted to target security forces. The army did not specify when the deaths and arrests took place, saying the fighting happened as part of “recent efforts” against armed groups.
The army statement noted that naval forces both in the Mediterranean and Red Sea have secured the coastal strip against maritime threats, which include illegal migration. Border guards seized 585 rifles of different types, two submachine guns, 80 automatic rifle magazines, and 2,088 different bullets as well as 646 kg of cannabis, 7,707 kg of marijuana, 10 kg of opium, and 633,000 opioid tablets.
The border guards seized 172 vehicles used for smuggling and 48 devices used for mining, as well as prevented illegal migration attempts by 1,048 people of numerous nationalities, the statement said.
In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide operation against armed groups, focusing mainly on the northern Sinai area. Some 650 militants and around 45 soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to the Egyptian armed forces.
The Israel Defence Forces have in the past said they “monitor” Egyptian military operations in the peninsula and that any increase in forces “has been carried out in coordination” with them. According to the security annex to the 1979 Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, the Sinai was decalred a demilitarised zone and any changes to military force levels by either side need to be coordinated and agreed between the two parties.
Israel’s Counterterrorism Bureau has recently warned that: “In addition to ISIS’ activities, Al-Qaeda members in the area are encouraging attacks on Israeli targets. The serious travel warning (Level 1) issued for Sinai is still in effect.”