Egypt’s army launched a full-scale military operation against militants in the whole country on Friday, which is seen as the “knockout stage” in a series of military operations, carried out nationwide by military forces, against militants groups since 2011.
On Friday The army and naval forces began a military operation named“Full-Scale Operation in Sinai 2018” against terrorists militants in Sinai affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, Military spokesman Colonel Tamer el-Rafei announced.
Following the 2011 Revolution, terrorists found a home in the Sinai Peninsula, from which they have targeted military, security personnel and civilians nationwide. Since then the Armed Forces have carried out massive operations to root out terrorism. The latest is “Sinai 2018”, which came as “a result of a series of military efforts and investigations since 2013, particularly after the Rawdah Mosque attack,” on November 24, 2017, which claimed lives of more than 300 people in North Sinai, Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said on “Ten new” talk show on TENchannel on Friday evening.
The operation also came following the terrorist attack that targeted a number of security forces in Wahat Al-Baharyia (Western Oases) in the Western Desert, killing 14 police personnel in January. The effort was also spurred by a series of attacks against Coptic Christians in Helwan, Minya, Alexandria, and Tanta, in which more than 80 Copts were killed and dozens were injured over the course of 2017.
Major General Talaat Ahmed Moussa, the consultant at Nasser Military Academy told Egypt Today on Saturday that this operation is “massive” because it is being carried out by all institutions and bodies affiliated with the Ministry of Defense such as the second and third Fields Armies, the Navy, the Air Force, Air Defense, Commando forces and Coast Guards all over the country.
“It is a knockout against the militant group of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the (banned) Muslim Brotherhood and other sleeping agents,” Moussa stated.
Other previous operations were focussed on certain geographical areas, such North and Central Sinai, or the Western desert, but “Sinai 2018” covers all the country’s ground, maritime, air borders in response to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s order to root out of terrorism within three months, Moussa added.
The Major General said that the operation depends on four axes; first, besieging the terrorists’ havens in mountainous areas and deserts all over the country simultaneously. Second, paralyzing the terrorists’ movements. Third is tightening the control over the border grounds, particularly in the Western Desert and Eastern and Southern borders, as well as maritime borders along 950 kilometers of the Mediterranean and 120 kilometers of the Red Sea. Fourth, the armed forces will conduct a combing operation to weed out any targets that were not caught in the other stages.
“It is the first time in Egypt’s history such a massive operation id being conducted, which is being carried out at day and night,” Moussa continued, noting that it could last days or weeks upon assessments by the military operation center.
Since the 2011 Revolution that ended former President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years in power, militants groups created a hotbed in Sinai and attacked several military and security forces. The Armed Forces carried out two massive military operations; In August 2011, the army launched “Eagle 1” against militants who claimed responsibility for bombing the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline in Arish in July 2011.
On August 5, 2012, the army launched “Eagle 2” operation in North Sinai, following the deaths of 16 police soldiers during an attack on a police station in North sinai, near the Egypt-Israel border crossing Karam Abu Salem.
Operation Martyr’s Right
The attacks from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis against police and military personnel intensified following the dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins of Rabaa and Nahda squares on August 14, 2013. In 2015, Egypt’s Ministry of the Interior announced that the militant attacks in Sinai have killed more than 500 personnel since then.
After the dispersal, the first announced terrorist attack carried out by the militants was on July 29, 2013 against the Civil Protection Office in North Sinai’s Arish, killing a military conscript and injuring others. A year later, the city saw a deadly attack on October 24, 2014, where 31 soldiers were killed by the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which declared its loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in November 2014.
Following the attack, President Sisi declared a state of emergency in parts of North Sinai for an additional three months starting from January 27, 2014. Since then, the state of emergency has been renewed.
The Armed Forces, in cooperation with the ministry of interior, have carried out a long series of military operations against the militants, killing dozens of them. They have also conducted several massive operations.
On September 8, 2015, Egyptian air and naval forces waged the first large-scale military operation titled “Martyr’s Right” North Sinai in response to a series of attacks against military and police personnel and civilians. The 16-day operation, which aimed to achieve full control over North Sinai’s towns of Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed killed 535 terrorists. Also, a total of 634 extremists were arrested, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense on September 23, 2015.
The statement added that the military forces destroyed 613 terrorist hideouts, 111 four-wheel-drive vehicles and 66 smuggling tunnels used by insurgents, as well as reclaiming control over highways and roads in the three cities.
During the first phase, eleven military personnel were killed and 25 others were injured over the first ten days of the operation, according to the ministry’s figures.
According to an annual report issued by the U.S. State Department in June 2016 on global terrorist activity for 2015, the number of terrorist attacks on the security and military personnel declined in the second half of 2015, attributing the decline to the government and army’s efforts against terrorism nationwide.
On January 2, 2015, the second major phase of the Right of the Martyr operation was launched.
The phase aimed at coordinating with the police to control over the three cities, providing full-scale security for all vital institutions across the governorate, and providing Sinai residents with health and social care, as well as food basics.
Coincidentally, the Armed Forces Engineering Authority (AFEA) announced its plan of developing and constructing the governorate, particularly in the three cities. The AFEA sent large amounts of humanitarian aid to the local residents.
The authority continued constructing 1,200 housing units in Al-Massaeed town in Arish and central hospitals in towns of Rafah, Beir al-Abd, and Nakhl, as well as a number of schools. The authority also was mandated to build the New City of Rafah.
The third phase
On May 21, 2016, the air and ground forces launched the third phase of the Martyr’s Right operation, which, over the course of four days, killed over 85 terrorists, arrested three others, and destroyed a number of ammunition stores and more than 73 hideouts.
The third phase was carried out by the forces of the Second Field Army, which has its headquarters in Ismailia governorate (129.39 kilometers away from North Sinai), in cooperation with military command forces and naval forces to prevent any possible trafficking attempts.
The fourth and last phase of the Martyr’s Right Operation lasted for seven days. It was also carried out by the Second Field Army, killing 40 terrorists, arresting five others, and destroying 20 four-wheel drive vehicles, four motorbikes, four bomb cars, 52 hideouts and 100 bombs. They also seized a large amount of ammunition.
The phase was launched on July 19, in cooperation with the naval forces, according to the Defense Ministry’s data.