50 IS fighters said killed by Egyptian army shelling in Sinai
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50 IS fighters said killed by Egyptian army shelling in Sinai

Sky News Arabic says artillery barrage in north of peninsula left dozens more operatives wounded

Smoke rises after an airstrike in the Sinai city of Rafah as seen from Gaza on July 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)
Smoke rises after an airstrike in the Sinai city of Rafah as seen from Gaza on July 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

At least 50 Islamic State operatives were reportedly killed and dozens more wounded by Egyptian army artillery attacks in the Sinai Peninsula.

According to Sky News Arabia, the incident — which has not yet been confirmed by official Egyptian sources — took place south of the town of Sheikh Zuweid, in the northern Sinai.

The Islamic State’s presence in the peninsula, a group known as Sinai Province, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014. The group draws much of its support from Bedouins in the Sinai, who have long felt neglected by the Egyptian government.

The Egyptian military has carried out multiple operations against the group in Sinai. In October, the army launched airstrikes against jihadist targets in the Sinai after Islamic State killed 12 soldiers at a checkpoint.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted Egyptian defense sources as saying that around 100 jihadists were killed in around three hours of strikes.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said last month that his country’s war against jihadists in Sinai would be long, but that conditions in the vast and arid region were improving.

In an interview with Egypt’s three state-owned newspapers, he acknowledged that both the extremists and government forces were getting better at fighting each other in the strategic area bordering Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“Conditions in Sinai are improving and (our) efforts are continuing because the war is long,” said Sissi. “The terrorists are evolving and we are improving our operations.”

Northern Sinai is a stronghold of the Sunni extremists, who have killed hundreds of soldiers and police since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Although Sinai Province group has primarily focused its attacks on Egyptian forces, it has previously attacked Israel and gas pipelines to both Israel and Jordan.

The group also took credit for the downing of a Russian plane in October 2015 as it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board, most of them Russian tourists. Although it initially denied that the plane was brought down by the Sinai based terrorist group, Moscow later confirmed that it was a bomb placed by the group that brought down the plane.

File: Debris of the A321 Russian airliner lie on the ground a day after the plane crashed in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, on November 1, 2015 (Khaled Desouki/AFP)
File: Debris of the A321 Russian airliner lie on the ground a day after the plane crashed in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, on November 1, 2015 (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

 

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