On the second day of a campaign by the armed forces to counter the ongoing insurgency in the restive North Sinai, the Defence Ministry announced Tuesday the killing of 27 militants as part of operation “Retribution for the martyr”.
The military spokesperson said Wednesday that operations are ongoing “to fight terrorism on all levels”.
The raids, according the ministry, took place in Al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid, and Rafah, as well as some parts of central Sinai. Troops from the second and third field army, with the assistance from Special Forces and anti-terrorism units belonging to the civilian police, attacked several terrorist hideouts, killing 27 and arresting 154, the army said.
The Tuesday attacks took place while being covered by arial support. Ten vehicles and 35 motorcycles were destroyed, while other “terrorist” hideouts were burned.
A propaganda video on the Defence Ministry’s website showed well equipped army soldiers leading raids with the assistance of Special Forces from the Interior Ministry. The poorly-edited video shows soldiers storming an empty house, while another scene shows three soldiers kicking in three different doors at the same time.
A war of statements and social media has been ongoing between radical militants in Sinai and thearmed forces.
Militant groups in Egypt, primarily “State of Sinai”, have capitalised on an absence of media coverage and hard information about the army’s fight to contain the insurgency in the peninsula, releasing videos of attacks that portray themselves as succeeding without difficulty.
Both sides release videos, pictures, and statements claiming attacks and killings on the other side. The two sides also use media to claim the support of locals.
For example, earlier this week, the armed forces spokesperson’s official page posted pictures of the commander in chief of the Third Army giving out presents and supplies. Captions to the pictures said that the army considers “Sinai’s bedouins” the main front in its fight against whoever endangers the safety of the country.
Such tactics are also used by extremists, who post pictures of militants giving out supplies to residents, with captions mostly reading “soldiers of the Islamic State distributing rations to Muslims in Sinai”.
A resident of Rafah, who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons, said:“People are currently living between the fire of the two sides. If, for example, the army discovers that a man or a family received help from the militants, he might be arrested on terrorism charges. On the other hand, if the militants discovers that anyone collaborated with the army in transferring intelligence, he is usually kidnapped and his body could be found days after.”
The resident said the government is not doing enough to secure the people in Rafah and Sheikh Zuwied financially, “especially after the latest phase of construction of the buffer zone”.
In several videos, “State of Sinai” claimed to kill residents who allegedly “collaborated with the army of apostasy”.
As operation “Retribution for the martyr” continues, reports of unknown rockets hitting civilian residences and sometimes military checkpoints circulate in local media, with medical sources confirming causalities.
Last week, six soldiers from the US Multinational Force and Observers mission in Sinai were injured after improvised explosive devices (IEDs) went off in North Sinai. The injured soldiers included four Americans, the Pentagon reported, and were given necessary medical care after the incident.