Residents of south warned about planned ‘massive’ Egypt assault on IS affiliate
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Residents of south warned about planned ‘massive’ Egypt assault on IS affiliate

Eshkol Regional Council says loud bombardments will be heard, as Cairo continues effort to regain control in Sinai

A picture taken on November 28, 2017 from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing following an explosion close to the border on the Egyptian side of the divided city.
(AFP/SAID KHATIB)
A picture taken on November 28, 2017 from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing following an explosion close to the border on the Egyptian side of the divided city. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

Residents of southern Israel were notified Tuesday by their local councils that the Egyptian military is planning to carry out “extraordinarily massive attacks” near the Egyptian-Israeli-Gazan border across from the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.

The planned Egyptian assault appears to be intended to target the Islamic State terror group’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, which has been waging a bloody war with Cairo for years.

Egyptian tanks were also spotted near the Gaza border.

“A bombardment is expected [to be heard] in our area,” the Eshkol Regional Council said in a message to residents.

The Israeli army confirmed that it’s aware of increased Egyptian military presence in the area, but said it is an “entirely internal” matter that does not involve Israel.

Egypt’s army launched a major offensive against the jihadists on February 9 in the northern Sinai Peninsula, in an attempt to neutralize a local branch of IS.

More than 100 of the rebels and at least 30 government troops have been killed since the operation, dubbed “Sinai 2018,” was launched, according to official figures.

Egypt’s military said last month it had killed an IS leader during an operation in mountainous areas. Egyptian forces “killed Nasser Abu Zaqul, the central Sinai commander of the terrorist group, after significant exchanges of fire,” the army said in a statement.

The military said it found a rifle, two grenades and a large quantity of ammunition with the slain insurgent leader.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, attends the inauguration of the East Suez Canal Counter-Terrorism command, in Sinai, Egypt on February 25, 2018. (MENA via AP)

Egypt has been hit by significant attacks in recent years, especially after the army toppled Islamist former president Mohammed Morsi in the summer of 2013, amid mass protests against his government.

Hundreds of soldiers, police and civilians have been killed in the attacks.

In late November, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gave three months for his security forces to re-establish control in Sinai, a deadline since extended.

Sissi secured a second term with an overwhelming victory in a presidential poll in March with 97.1% of the vote.

The president last month extended a nationwide state of emergency originally declared in April 2017 by a further three months. It is the fourth extension of the measure, imposed in the wake of attacks against Coptic Christian churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, which killed 45 people.

A regional state of emergency has already been in place in Sinai for several years.

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