Egypt cracks down on Gaza tunnels, but faces setbacks in Sinai
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Egypt cracks down on Gaza tunnels, but faces setbacks in Sinai

As President Sissi claims ‘massive results’ achieved in regional operation, jihadists kill seven in fresh attack

Egyptian army personnel supervise the destruction of tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip at the border, near the town of Rafah, northern Sinai, Egypt, September 2013. (photo credit: AP/AP Television)
Egyptian army personnel supervise the destruction of tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip at the border, near the town of Rafah, northern Sinai, Egypt, September 2013. (photo credit: AP/AP Television)

As Egyptian security forces continue to fight an Islamist insurgency, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Tuesday that at least 80 percent of the tunnels between the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, and that nearly 200 militants were arrested in massive security operation.

The Egyptian efforts were reported a day before a series of bomb attacks killed four Egyptian soldiers and three civilians in the desert peninsula.

Sissi said the buffer zone with neighboring Gaza had been expanded to three kilometers in certain locations, and that security forces have destroyed 150 terror bases, according to a Falesteen newspaper report quoted by media watchdog group Middle East Monitor.

It was not made immediately clear when the operation had taken place.

Jihadists regularly target security forces in the region in retaliation for a bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi looks on during the Arab League summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on March 29, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/ MOHAMED EL-SHAHED)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi looks on during the Arab League summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on March 29, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/ MOHAMED EL-SHAHED)

Sissi said “massive results” were achieved during the regional operation.

“Takfirists and terrorists were planning to do something in Sinai, but we spoiled their plans,” he reportedly said.

“Facing terror is a comprehensive attempt that includes fighting poverty, ignorance and offering an enlightened religious discourse that reforms the blurred ideologies,” he added.

But on Wednesday, a fresh round of attacks claimed lives of both security and civilian targets.

The bombings occurred in and around the town of Rafah in North Sinai, where the military has built a buffer zone to prevent militants from crossing into Egypt from the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

Two officers and two soldiers were killed in a bomb blast during a search operation in Rafah, security officials said.

In a separate attack, three passers-by were killed when a roadside bomb went off south of Rafah, police and medics said.

Smoke rises after a house was blown up during a military operation by Egyptian security forces in the Egyptian city of Rafah near the border with southern Gaza Strip on November 20, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Smoke rises after a house was blown up during a military operation by Egyptian security forces in the Egyptian city of Rafah near the border with southern Gaza Strip on November 20, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The area is a bastion of the jihadist group Sinai Province, formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. The organization has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, which has captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Officials say hundreds of Egyptian policemen and soldiers have been killed in jihadist attacks, including in Cairo, since the army overthrew Morsi in 2013.

A police crackdown targeting Morsi supporters, meanwhile, has left more than 1,400 people dead and thousands imprisoned.

Hundreds have also been sentenced to death after speedy mass trials, which the United Nations says is “unprecedented in recent history”.

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