The Egyptian Armed Forces killed 19 militants and destroyed four vehicles in an airstrike in North Sinai, according to a statement issued on Thursday. Those killed include a leader of Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdes, which was renamed Province of Sinai after declaring loyalty to the Islamic State in 2014.
Another statement issued on Thursday reports that a military operation in central Sinai resulted in the death of two militants and the injury of three others, as well as the arrest of three people. It also asserts that the Armed Forces intercepted an attempt to smuggle money and materials used for making explosives into Sinai.
A Central Security Forces conscript was also killed and one civilian injured during a militant attack on a police vehicle on the Arish coastal road on Thursday, reported the privately owned al-Watan newspaper. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The Air Force continues to support law enforcement in North Sinai and central Sinai by intensifying operations to eliminate terrorism,” reads the Thursday statement. “The Third Field Army is taking intensive measures at St. Catherine’s and all other tourist destinations in South Sinai in collaboration with police forces.”
Earlier this week, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a security checkpoint near St. Catherine’s Monastery in South Sinai that occurred late Tuesday night. The Interior Ministry released a statement asserting that one low-ranking officer was killed and three police officers were injured in the attack, adding that one assailant was forced to abandon his automatic firearm, along with ammunition.
Despite the rise of violent attacks in North Sinai since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, central Sinai only started seeing an escalation of such attacks in 2016, amid security crackdowns in Hassana, Nekhel and Gabal al-Halal.
South Sinai has the lowest frequency of militant attacks in the peninsula, and aside from the recent incident at St. Catherine’s it has witnessed only two militant attacks in the past few years. The first was in February 2014 when a Korean tourists bus was bombed, killing four people and injuring 14 others. The attack was claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdes. Later in October 2015, a Russian plane was downed a few minutes after it took off from the Sharm el-Sheikh international airport with 217 passengers and seven crew members aboard, who were all killed. Province of Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack.