The Egyptian Armed Forces announced on Friday that it has launched an extensive military operation in Sinai to eliminate militants from the restive peninsula.
Military spokesperson Tamer El-Refaei said in a televised statement that the operation aims to target “dens and ammunition storages that are being used by terrorist elements.” He added that the ongoing operation, which is dubbed Sinai 2018, includes navy, air force, and infantry forces.
The large-scale operation comes as Egyptian authorities have been repeatedly promising to eliminate militants from the Sinai Peninsula, with the military manoeuvres praised by different state apparatuses, such as parliament, Al-Azhar, The Coptic Orthodox Church, and the cabinet.
A nationalist sentiment has taken over state-owned and private media, as several newspapers and television programmes have celebrated the military campaign.
The military spokesperson has released three statements on the operation, though has not mentioned numbers or details about the positions of the raids. No official statement has been released citing any casualties among troops, but local media said that two personnel were killed in action.
No announcement of civilian causalities has been reported. Residents from the city of Al-Arish told Daily News Egypt that they woke up Friday morning to sounds of explosions, explaining, however, that that most of the action is taking place south of the city.
The Ministries of Education and Higher Education has declared that all schools and universities in Sinai have suspended their activities until further notice.
As a precautionary measure due to the operation, state-owned news agency MENA reported, quoting security sources, that all Ministry of Interior forces have been placed on maximum alert nationwide.
Both the army and police forces have been engaged in violent clashes with the group Sinai Province since 2013.
“Sinai Province”, a group previously known as Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis swore allegiance to IS in 2014 and has launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.
Over the last two years, the Egyptian Armed Forces have launched counter-attacks against the militants’ stationing points across the Sinai Peninsula, where the group mainly operates in the cities of Sheikh Zuwayed, Rafah, and Al-Arish.
A state of emergency was first declared in North Sinai by interim president Adly Mansour, who came into power following the ouster of Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi. The state of emergency was extended following extremist attacks on Coptic churches on Palm Sunday last year.