The Egyptian presidency has reached an agreement with fundamentalist elements in northern Sinai for a one-week ceasefire.
The agreement was reached following secret negotiations between members of Mohammed Morsi’s presidential team and Salafi extremists who lead mosques in the Egyptian cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zweid, the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Monday.
According to the daily, the Salafis agreed to put down their arms for a week in return for the release of Islamist prisoners and a halt to “Operation Eagle,” which the Egyptian army is currently carrying out in the Sinai Peninsula to rid it of terrorists.
The Egyptian government has been engaged in dialogue in northern Sinai parallel to its large military operation in the marginalized peninsula, following an Islamist terrorist attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers on August 5. On August 20, Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi met with Sinai tribesmen and acknowledged Egypt’s longstanding economic and social neglect of the region.
On Monday, Sissi visited southern Sinai and met with Bedouin tribesmen “to hear their grievances,” the daily reported.
“The negotiations began following the arrival of a high-ranking military official in Sinai, and Operation Eagle was stopped for 48 hours as a result of these negotiations,” an unnamed source who attended the meeting told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
But a Salafi leader in Sheikh Zweid, Hamdeen Abu-Faisal, said the delegation from Cairo was a clerical one, tasked with “fact finding” and correcting misconceptions about Islam among local residents. Still, Abu-Faisal admitted the delegation was sent by the Egyptian presidency, and said it would prepare the ground for further meetings in the future.
On Sunday, a Sinai resident and terror suspect, Ibrahim Madan, was killed in an explosion near the border with Israel. Local eyewitnesses claimed that an Israeli drone had launched a missile at Madan’s motorcycle, but Egyptian forensic testing of the explosion site revealed that Madan was killed by an explosive charge placed on the road, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.