Tension in Egypt’s North Sinai have reached new heights after Egyptian security forces – from both the army and police – have engaged with masked gunmen in different areas in the early hours of Wednesday, shortly after unknown assailants had opened fire on three joint military-police checkpoints.

Many checkpoints, especially in the city of Arish, have witnessed fire exchange between both sides as Egyptian troops and helicopters are combing the eastern area of El-Halal Mountain, hunting down masked gunmen.

According to eyewitnesses quoted by Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news portal , many of the gunmen were killed and injured in the raids as several soldiers were allegedly injured too. Accurate tolls are yet to be revealed.

Other eyewitnesses also confirmed that Egyptian military jets have pounded several spots in the Sheikh Zuweid town while chasing the outlaws.

Earlier in the late hours of Tuesday, masked gunmen attacked three joint military-police checkpoints in North Sinai, two days after 16 border guards were killed by unidentified assailants in an incident that has left the Sinai Peninsula in a state of serious disarray.

A resident in Al-Arish City was accidently injured after being caught out in the fight as the gunmen attacked Al-Risa checkpoint and two others on the main road between Al-Arish and Rafah, the city that was at the center of Sunday’s deadly attacks on Egyptian border guards. No deaths were reported at the time.

The fire exchange lasted until the early hours of Wednesday, before military and police armoured vehicles materialized in an attempt to contain the situation, eyewitnesses told Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news portal.

It is the 29th attack on Al-Risa checkpoint since the 2011 uprising.

Sinai has sunk into a state of lawlessness since last year’s 18-day uprising that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak.

The situation has taken a severe turn for the worse since Sunday, when a vicious attack by unknown assailants at the Egypt-Gaza border left 16 guards dead and seven injured.

Many parties have traded accusations over the deadly attack that took place near the Gaza strip, which is governed by Islamist faction Hamas. No one has claimed responsibility yet for the terrorist operation.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Egypt President Mohamed Morsi hails, has accused Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad of carrying out the attack to “hinder Egypt’s progress.”

Hamas and Israel have both distanced themselves from the attack, with the latter’s defence minister Ehud Barak saying he hoped it would serve as a “wake-up call” to Egypt, which has been struggling to assert control over Sinai.

Morsi has declared three days of mourning for the slain soldiers. A military funeral service was held for them on Tuesday.




ref: http://english.ahram.org.eg