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Operation Sinai: Egyptian army destroys 40 terror tunnels

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Itongadol.- The relative calm in Sinai was violated while Mohamed Morsi was ousted from the Egyptian rule, yet the Egyptian army claims it does not intend on leaving the peninsula to terrorists.

Egyptian newspaper Al Gomhuria reported Sunday morning that the army, which carried out a coup following massive protests against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, is interested in conducting a widespread operation in Sinai, where several terrorist attacks were carried our during the weekend. Another report read that in the past few days, more than 40 terrorist tunnels were destroyed.

State TV and witnesses reported that an explosion occurred in Sinai in an Egyptian pipeline carrying gas to Jordan. This was reported following attacks on several security checkpoints in the past few days. It is still unclear who is behind the explosion in the pipeline, which has been attacked more than 10 times since former autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings

The violent clashes reached the Sinai Peninsula and the area of Rafah, where terrorists fired rockets at a police station in the vicinity of the Gaza-Israel border Thursday night. Fire was also targeted at the El Arish International Airport and three military checkpoints. Due to the events, the Rafah crossing was closed by the military.

The escalation resulted in an additional significant victim, when gunmen shot dead a Coptic Christian priest in northern Sinai on Saturday in what could be the first sectarian attack since the military overthrow.

It was further reported by Al Gomhuria that the planned operation in Sinai will also include a significant role by the Egyptian air force. A source quoted by the paper said that the army has proposed the idea to ousted president Morsi, but he rejected it and insisted that the operation would be carried out on land only. According to the same source, there is a consensus among army chiefs in regards to the execution of the operation.

The source was also asked about the possibility of Israel objecting to the operation, and said: "The matter in general is not related to Israel, but to the national security of Egypt. There is no will above the Egyptian people\’s will, which is worried about the situation in Sinai. It is the same people that sacrificed a lot for Sinai."

Meanwhile, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk quoted a senior military official who claimed that the Egyptian army has already started an operation in northern Sinai in coordination with the Interior Ministry in order to remove armed jihadists entrenched in the mountains. He claimed that further details about the operation will be revealed in the next few days.

According to him, "the military forces were deployed intensively in the Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid border regions, an area with extremist organizations\’ strongholds. In addition, the engineering corps destroyed more than 40 tunnels in order to prevent the infiltration of terrorists into Sinai."

Despite the military\’s attempts to restore order in Sinai, it was reported early Sunday morning that four Egyptian army checkpoints were attacked in the city of Sheikh Zuweid, probably by the same extremist organizations. The Egyptian army fired back at the source of fire. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, the political turmoil in Egypt continues. The Presidential Office Spokesperson said at a televised press conference late Saturday night that a prime minister has yet to be designated, after it was reported earlier Saturday by state newspaper Al-Ahram that Interim President Adly Mansour had tasked Opposition Leader Mohamed Elbaradei in charge of forming the transitional government.

The spokesperson further added that the Muslim Brotherhood movement will be allowed to participate in the upcoming elections.

It is estimated that following the objection of the Salafi Al-Nour party, the Presidential Office withdrew the decision to appoint Elbaradei. Al-Nur, which supported the ousting of Morsi, announced it opposes the appointment of Elbaradei. The party\’s deputy leader Ahmed Khalil said that his party will cease collaborating with the interim government if Elbaradei will head it: "His appointment violates the outline on which the political camps agreed on with the army\’s Chief of Staff General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi."

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