Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian sources on Thursday denied an Arabic newspaper report that claimed the Egyptian army has killed some 200 gunmen in Sinai, including 32 Hamas members, and arrested 45 others over the past several days.
The numbers were reported by London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat, which quoted an Egyptian security official accusing Hamas of intentionally escalating the security situation in Sinai following the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi.
The official claimed that Egyptian military forces have observed Hamas activists operating in Sinai in cooperation with local jihadists. “The army is barely in control of the situation,” the official told the daily. “They enter Sinai through the tunnels to carry out attacks together with others and return to Gaza through the tunnels. Moreover, they exploit the terrain and hide in the mountains.”
However, Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian sources all denied the report. Hamas, for its part, tried to distance itself from the developments in Egypt, claiming it has adopted a policy of non-intervention following the overthrow of Morsi.
“The intervention of Gazans in the Egyptian issue is nothing more than popular solidarity with the deposed president Mohammed Morsi, in whose time the situation improved on all levels,” read an article in Hamas news site Al-Resalah.
Egypt is seeking Israel’s permission to carry out a widespread operation in the coming days against jihadists in Sinai, the Times of London reported on Thursday. According to the daily, Israel is inclined to authorize the operation.
The Egyptian army has been intensively engaged in the Sinai peninsula for almost two years as part of Operation Eagle, which followed a terrorist attack on an Egyptian army outpost during the month of Ramadan in August 2011.
Arab media reported on Thursday that the commander of Egypt’s second field army operating in Sinai, major general Ahmad Wasfi, survived an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on his car Wednesday night in the town of Sheikh Zweid, near the border with the Gaza Strip. Wasfi was not hurt, and the perpetrator was reportedly apprehended.
The Egyptian army’s uncompromising crackdown on terrorists in Sinai has also brought smuggling activity in tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to a near-standstill, Egyptian and Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel Wednesday.