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Egyptian security arrest 47 insurgents in Sinai - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A picture taken on September 1, 2013 from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows Egyptian soldiers on the other side of the border standing guard near an armored vehicle. (AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB)

A picture taken on September 1, 2013, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows Egyptian soldiers on the other side of the border standing guard near an armored vehicle. (AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian security forces arrested 47 suspected insurgents, including some Palestinians, in Sinai on Saturday.

Forces of the Egyptian Second Army in northern Sinai, helped by civilian police, arrested “42 Takfiri and armed criminals” in the Sheikh Zuwaid area, as well as 5 Palestinians infiltrators near the Arish coast, during security raids. A security spokesman said “all suspects have been referred to the general prosecution to interrogate them about the crimes they are accused of.”

Security and military forces have said “Israeli authorities said the Israeli border forces on Friday evening fired at a number of Egyptian smugglers on the joint borders with Egypt in Sinai,” adding that the shots were fired when the smugglers crossed into Israeli territory.

The sources said a smuggler was killed and another was injured while the others fled into Sinai. They added that Israeli authorities handed over the body of the smuggler who was killed and the injured man to Egyptian authorities at the Karm Abu Salem crossing.

Dozens of police and army officers have been killed in Egypt since the ouster of Mohamed Mursi on July 3, mostly in attacks launched by suspected Islamist extremists from the Sinai area.

The arrests follow recent attacks against Egyptian security targets by an organization called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and also occurred the same day as a fire on a ship in the Suez Canal, both of which raised fears of terrorism.

In another development, ISIS, a member of the wider Al-Qaeda franchise, issued a statement on the Internet yesterday urging Egyptians to take up arms against the army and said: “The bloody repression of Islamist protesters shows that peaceful means are futile.”

The self-described spokesman of ISIS, Mohamed Adnani, said in a recorded message that “the armies of the tyrants who rule the Islamist countries are infidel armies, and saying these armies were infidels and have rejected Islam, and that it was a duty to fight them, is the only righteous thing to say.” He added that “this Egyptian army is part of these armies and a carbon copy of them, which endeavors to stop the rule of God’s law, and works hard to instill the principles of secularism.”

Meanwhile, insurgent attacks on police stations and patrols continued in Sinai. A security source speaking on condition of anonymity said: “Yesterday morning, a security patrol was targeted at it passed an area south of Arish Airport, when insurgents fired RPG rockets at it, causing a large explosion which shook Arish. The two rockets fell far from the patrol, causing no damage.”

This followed another explosion near the Cairo Bank in Arish, which reportedly caused no injuries. A security source in Arish, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the explosion resulted in limited damage to the bank without injuring any security personnel.”

He added that “unidentified gunmen also fired at the security forces in Arish, and there was an exchange of fire, but no injuries were yet reported,” pointing out that the insurgents targeted a security forces’ camp in the Masaeed area of Arish, prompting the security forces to respond to them forcing the insurgents to flee without injuries.

The Palestinian Hamas movement’s security forces, meanwhile, raided the Egyptian Cultural Center in Gaza and arrested Adel Abdelrahman, head of the Egyptian community in Palestine, and confiscated the center’s computers.

Diplomatic sources at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the ministry has strongly condemned the incident in which the head of the Egyptian community in Gaza was arrested yesterday,” adding that “the Egyptian Foreign Ministry rejects any attack on Egyptian interests carried out by a faction which does not represent (all) Palestinians.”

The Foreign Ministry described the arrest as an “irresponsible” act and demanded his immediate release and the return of all confiscated equipment.

A statement issued by the ministry on Saturday said “Egypt, based on its national and historic responsibility, is very committed to the Palestinians’ interests, for whom it has sacrificed a lot and waged war. However, it completely rejects the attempts to harm Egyptian interests and the reviled practices by a specific faction that does not represent the whole Palestinian nation.” The statement said that “the Foreign Ministry will not tolerate such practices.”

Ziyad Al-Masri, director of the Egyptian Cultural Center in the West Bank, said in a statement to Egypt’s official MENA news agency on Saturday that 15 members of Hamas’s police raided the center in Gaza and arrested Abdelrahman and confiscated the center’s computers.

Masri accused the Hamas authorities of arresting Abdelrahman because he supported the Egyptian army against the ousted president, Mohamed Mursi, who is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood to which Hamas is also affiliated, and because he condemned attacks on Egyptian state institutions by Mursi supporters.

Gen. Sameh Sayf Al-Yazal, a military and strategic expert, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “what Hamas was doing amounted to an escalation and a provocative act to Egypt.” He added that Hamas must adhere to diplomatic rules in its dealings with Cairo, and he expected Hamas “to carry out further provocative acts in the coming days, after Egypt officially announced that Hamas members were involved in terrorist acts in Sinai.”

He further added that Hamas may demand the release of its members who were arrested in Sinai and in a number of Egyptian areas for being involved in acts of sabotage against state institutions and police stations, in exchange for the release of the head of the Egyptian community in Gaza.