Egypt’s air force continued carrying out airstrikes for the second day, targeting terrorist hideouts and weapons in Sinai during the whole night as part of Operation Sinai 2018, which aims to eliminate extremists in different areas across the country, the army said in a third communiqué on the offensive, posted on the Twitter page of the military spokesman Colonel Tamer Al-Refai on Saturday.
The statement said that concentrated airstrikes targeted terrorist strongholds that were detected in North and Central Sinai throughout the night and during the early hours of Saturday morning.
Several raids on different terrorist spots were carried out by border guards, police and law enforcement forces, while military jets hit stores of weapons, ammunition, explosive materials and logistic areas of terrorists. Meanwhile, the Naval Special Forces are intensifying security measures along the coast from Rafah to the west of Arish city in North Sinai, to cut off supply routes to terrorists, the statement read.
For his part, retired Major-General Hisham al-Halabi, advisor to the Nasser Military Academy, said that Operation Sinai 2018 is a comprehensive process that includes all strategic directions and works to pursue terrorist groups throughout the Arab Republic of Egypt to eliminate the terrorist elements in all places.
The successive statements by the armed forces show the extent of work on the ground, including the pre-preparation and collection of information that has been carried out over the past period. He also pointed out that all weapons in the armed forces and the police are working in an integrated system to eliminate terrorist groups.
The commander of the armed forces released three video statements on military spokesperson Colonel Tamer Al-Refai’s Facebook page to follow up on the updates of the operation. The first statement, issued on Friday morning, announced the launch of a major new military operation to purge the country from terrorism.
“Great people of Egypt, in accordance with the delegation issued by the president of the republic, the supreme commander of the Egyptian armed forces, to the general command of the Egyptian armed forces and the Interior Ministry to comprehensively confront terrorism as well other criminal activities, in close cooperation with all state institutions, law enforcement troops started to implement the plan of comprehensive confrontation of terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in North and Central Sinai and other areas in the Nile Delta and the desert areas west of the Nile Valley,” he said.
Only thirty minutes after the army’s statement, President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi said he is following with pride the heroics of the army and police in the comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018.
Afterwards, Refai read the General Command of the Armed Forces’ second statement, providing more details on the operation.
“Great people of Egypt, in a continuation of law enforcement forces’ efforts, elements of our air forces targeted some of the pits, hideouts, and ammunition and weapons warehouses used by terrorist elements as a base to target the law enforcement forces and civilian targets in North and Central Sinai,” he said.
Residents told Reuters they saw warplanes flying above the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, which borders North Sinai to the west, and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip northeast of the vast desert region said they could hear explosions coming from across the border, but there was no immediate word on any casualties.
“Sinai 2018” in the press
Reuters said that Egypt’s military has struggled to put down the Islamic State insurgency in Sinai since the group set up a branch there in 2014. Islamist attacks against the army and police in Sinai had begun to escalate the previous year, having killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.
The Telegraph described the Sinai 2018 operations with “unprecedented assault against IS militants,” and added that Egypt launched a major assault against militants on Friday, focused on the Sinai Peninsula, where IS has staged deadly attacks, aiming to crush their insurgency by an end of February deadline set by President Sisi.
The Telegraph also said that the campaign by the army, navy, air force, border patrol and police is taking place ahead of a March election in which Sisi is seeking a second term and is widely expected to win.
The Financial Times mentioned that Egypt has launched a major security offensive against armed militant groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula and other parts of the country.
It added that the security forces have for years been fighting IS-affiliated militants in the Sinai, in areas bordering Gaza and Israel, representing a threat to Egypt’s political and economic stability.
President Sisi gave the military a three-month deadline at the end of November to clear terrorist groups from Sinai. He was responding to the slaughter of more than 300 Muslim worshippers attacked during Friday prayers at a mosque in northern Sinai. The attack was the worst single terrorist act in Egypt’s history, FT reported.