Update: North Sinai violence ongoing as death toll continues to rise

At least 29 people were killed and 46 others injured in a series of successive attacks targeting security facilities in the North Sinai city of Arish late Thursday evening, a medical source told Mada Masr.

The series of bombs detonated during the curfew as people were watching a football match between Ahly and Zamalek, a media source told Mada Masr.

At least 13 civilians were killed in the attack, including a 13-year-old boy and six women, according to sources at Arish Hospital, reported the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram. The death toll is expected to continue to rise as militants are still engaged in “an ongoing exchange of fire” with security forces, according to the military spokesperson.

Media reports are circulating a wide range of death toll numbers, but “the events are escalating on the ground, which makes it difficult to declare a final number regarding the victims,” Health Ministry spokesperson Hossam Abdel Ghaffar told Mada Masr. He added that the ministry has opened an operations room to follow the events.

“The terrorist attacks targeted institutions and facilities belonging to the military and security apparatuses in the city of Arish using car bombs and mortars,” the Armed Force spokesperson said in a statement posted to the military’s official Facebook page.

Some news outlets reported as many as 30 coordinated attacks. The security directorate, an Interior Ministry rest house, the army club, the military intelligence building and several checkpoints were targeted, among others.

A mortar fired at the North Sinai Security Directorate partially destroyed the building, also damaging the nearby Al-Ahram headquarters.

A car bomb and 10 mortars targeted Military Unit 101, followed by a series of coordinated attacks on police and military checkpoints in Arish. A checkpoint in the Masoura area south of Rafah was also bombed. Several other military checkpoints were reportedly attacked with rocket-propelled grenades.

The injured are being transported to Arish Hospital for treatment.

The military spokesperson believed the attacks were in retaliation against the “success of recent security operations by the Armed Forces and police forces against terrorist elements in North Sinai,” he said in the statement.

He also pointed to the “failure of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group and those who support them to spread chaos during the fourth anniversary of the glorious January 25 revolution.”

North Sinai has been under curfew since October 25 after attacks on military checkpoints killed more than 30 security personnel. It was due to expire on Sunday, but on January 25 the government extended it by three months due to ongoing security concerns. Hundreds of security personnel have been killed in Sinai over the past year, as Egypt’s military struggles to counter the increased militant activity in the peninsula since the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi.

The curfew initially extended from 5 pm to 7 am, but after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with tribal elders in Sinai, in December authorities agreed to shorten the hours from 7 pm to 6 am in some parts of North Sinai.

Area residents say that since the curfew has forced businesses to close early, it has pushed the city into a recession and hence caused increased robberies and acts of thuggery.

As part of its military operations in the region, the Armed Forces have evacuated and demolished homes in Rafah as part of a planned 1 km-wide buffer zone between North Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

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