Egyptian army to continue Sinai crack down until it is 'terrorist free'
Spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces, Ahmed Ali, says there will be more military operations against “terrorist” strongholds in Sinai, adding there is no timeframe for army action in the Peninsula.
“Starting from 7 August we launched a military operation that aims at abolishing terrorist and criminal groups in Sinai, implementing security, stability and enforcing the law,” Ali said during a press conference on Sunday.
Ali, who pointed out that attacks by “terrorist groups” have escalated following the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, went on to add that operations will not cease until Sinai is completely free of “factions threatening national security.”
According to Ali, the army has arrested around 309 militants and confiscated a number of munitions, including mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
He added that some of the confiscated hand grenades bear the stamp of Al-Qassam brigades – the militant wing of Gaza's Islamist ruling party Hamas.
“Hamas is also responsible for securing the borders,” said Ali, who added that houses placed on the border with the Gaza strip are a threat to national security.
Ali stated that while no buffer zone has been declared between Sinai and Gaza yet, the army is securing a distance of between 500 meters and 1 kilometer at the border.
Ali further vowed that once operations are finalised, the Armed Forces would support an initiative to develop the restive Peninsula.
“The last week involved a decisive confrontation with elements that threaten national security,” said Ali. He added that the Armed Forces present in Sinai are also concerned with protecting the freedom and interests of “the people of Sinai.”
"If we had used excessive violence in Sinai, we would have ended terrorism within 24 hours."
Ali stressed that respecting human rights is a priority for the Armed Forces, asserting that the military has never “demolished a mosque or attacked children and women in Sinai as claimed."
During the press conference, Ali accused detained-journalist Ahmed Abu Deraa of publishing false news regarding the army, including accusations that military forces have killed children in Sinai.
Abu Deraa is a Sinai-based journalist, who has been in detention for almost ten days and is facing a military trial for allegedly spreading false news about the Armed Forces and photographing military sites in Sinai.
The decision to try Abu Deraa in a military court has drawn widespread criticism. However, Ali asserted that his charges are the concern of military courts not civil justice.
Regarding the situation in Egypt post-Morsi, Ali refuted any claims of 'military rule,' adding, “the military’s intervention was in accordance with the constitution, which mandates the fulfilling of the peoples' will.”