The Egyptian army said it estimated the number of casualties among the Islamist extremists in the latest attack to be at around 25 killed and injured.
Colonel Ahmad Mohamed Ali, official spokesman of the army, said in a statement on Facebook that the army carried out an attack at 9:00 pm on Saturday evening after spotting a terrorist group near the village of Touma in northern Sinai, close to the border with Gaza.
Ali said the attack, carried out by the army’s Apache attack helicopters, was a result of what he called “plans by the terrorist group to carry out criminal acts against members of the armed forces, the police, and the people of Sinai.”
He said the attack resulted in 25 “terrorists” being killed or injured, and the destruction of an arms and ammunition depot belonging to the terror group.
Ali added that the terrorist group that was attacked was involved in recent attacks on Egyptian army personnel in the Sinai.
Eighteen soldiers were killed in August 2012, during the tenure of deposed President Mohamed Mursi, which led to the sacking of the then armed forced chief, General Hussein Tantawi. At the time, Mursi caused anger when he said that revealing the identity of the perpetrators would do more harm than good. The jihadist groups have intensified their attacks on army and police installations in Sinai since the ouster of Mursi.
In the meantime, the media adviser to the interim government said yesterday that Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi has stressed his full support for the armed forces in their “war against terrorism.” He added that the government “welcomed the efforts of the people of Sinai who helped the Egyptian armed forces in their war on terror, which would pave the way to a speedier development process in Sinai.”
The Sinai operation follows the controversy surrounding the attack which killed four members of the Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis who were preparing to fire missiles at Israel on Friday. The group issued a statement on Saturday claiming the attack was carried out by an Israeli drone that had entered Egyptian airspace.
The Egyptian army denied any Israeli involvement in the attack on Egyptian soil, but did not reveal the cause of the explosion that killed the four armed men.
Meanwhile, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted an anonymous military source as saying that army aircraft had targeted the four armed men. A statement by the Israeli defense minister, Moshe Yalon, corroborated the Egyptian story. Yalon said late on Saturday that “Israel respected the sovereignty of Egypt, and would not allow rumors and speculations to harm the peace treaty between the two countries.”
Yalon added that “Israel was monitoring the increased activity by the Egyptian army against the terror infrastructure in Sinai recently, which includes the attack at the end of last week, and Israel appreciates that, taking into account that Egypt was first and foremost defending Egyptian people and Egyptian sovereignty.”
Observers said the Egyptian army attack may have come in response to the show of force by the jihadists during the funeral held on Saturday for the four men who were killed on Friday. The group held Al-Qaeda flags aloft during the funeral, in which thousands participated.