Egyptian military says rebels killed in Sinai air raids

At least 25 fighters loyal to ISIL killed in town of Sheikh Zuweid, and weapons and explosives destroyed, military says.

Militants mount attacks on troops in Egypt''s Sinai
The violence poses a major test for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi [File: EPA]

Egypt says it has carried out air strikes in North Sinai, killing 25 fighters loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The military said on Saturday that rebels targets were hit near the town of Sheikh Zuweid, destroying weapons and explosives, as the Egyptian president made an unannounced visit to the province after a major escalation of the conflict there.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi inspected soldiers and police in El-Arish, the provincial capital, on Saturday, the presidency said in a statement.

Sisi, dressed in military garb for the first time since becoming president just over a year ago, told troops at least 200 fighters had been killed in the fighting in recent days, but added: “For me to say that things are under control is not enough, things are totally stable.

“I tell Egyptians … the size of forces here [in Sinai] is one percent of Egypt’s army.”

In a separate incident, at least two children and a woman were killed in Sheikh Zuweid town when a shell struck a house, but it was not immediately clear which side fired the shell.

A five-year-old child was killed in Rafah town that borders the Palestinian Gaza Strip when a roadside bomb targeted police and army vehicles.

State television broadcast footage of Sisi, dressed in military fatigues, touring an army base [EPA]
State television broadcast footage of Sisi, dressed in military fatigues, touring an army base [EPA]

The violence came days after Egyptian government carried out air strikes on Wednesday in response to one of the deadliest rebel assaults in Sheikh Zuweid.

The army said 17 soldiers and 100 rebels had been killed in that attack, but medical and security officials said the death toll was at least 70 people – mostly soldiers – as well as dozens of rebels.

The violence is part of the unrest that has been going on in Sinai since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi two years ago. 

Most of the attacks are claimed by a group calling itself the Sinai Province Fighters – formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. It changed its name when it pledged allegiance to the ISIL group last November.

The rebels say they are acting in response to the bloody repression launched by the authorities after Morsi’s overthrow, which has seen at least 1,400 people killed and thousands more jailed.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies