Egypt’s Armed Forces announced on Friday the launch of a “comprehensive” military operation in Sinai that aims to “end terrorism” in north and central Sinai, west of the Nile valley and the Nile Delta. Egyptian air forces have targeted militant ammunition storehouses in North and Central Sinai, the statement detailed, as well as tightened navy and border guard security protocols and secured “vital locations.” In the first statement it issued on Friday, the Armed Forces stated that the operation will also “combat other crimes that affect Egypt’s internal security and stability,” and urged citizens to cooperate with security forces and report “anything which may threaten the nation’s security and stability.” Concurrently, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced it has raised the national alert level to “maximum security” in all governorates and reinforced security of key facilities, adding that it has carried out patrols of river islands and remote areas to destroy terrorist hideouts, and has intensified the presence of security checkpoints within governorates and on travel roads. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi followed the military’s statement by saying, “With pride, I am following the heroism of my sons in the Armed Forces and police in purging Egypt’s valuable land from terrorist elements, who are the enemies of life,” on his Twitter account, ending with “long live Egypt, always” — the president’s campaign slogan in the 2014 elections that saw him come to power.
The State Information Service, a body affiliated with the Egyptian presidency, has requested that foreign media adhere to the statements of the military and police in their coverage of the operation, saying they should refrain from reporting news obtained from other “sources” or ministries.
Medical sources had told Mada Masr on Wednesday that the military had requested the urgent deployment of medical reinforcements to the Sinai peninsula and the neighboring Ismailia governorate, as hospitals implement emergency measures following an increase in military presence in the area. Sources told Mada Masr that a large number of medical staff in Arish were called in and other doctors were recently assigned to compulsory postings across Sinai. The doctors come from several governorates, including Cairo, Giza and Gharbeya, and were told their postings will last between one and three months. Following the Rawda mosque attack in November of last year, Sisi had given Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohamed Farid Hegazy and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar a three-month window within which to secure Sinai and eliminate militant groups in the area. In what was the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s recent history, armed militants attacked the Belal Mosque in the village of Rawda in North Sinai during Friday prayers, killing over 300 civilians. Citizens in north and central Sinai cities reported the deployment of military vehicles and equipment last month, which some had interpreted as a sign a major operation was underway. The Rafah crossing connecting Sinai to Gaza was closed down as the operation took off on Friday, according to Palestinian media outlets. Egyptian authorities had made a sudden decision to open the crossing last Wednesday and hadnotified the Palestinian embassy that it would be accessible until Friday evening. Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s official religious institution that is responsible for drafting Islamic edicts, called on citizens to support the military and police at the outset of the major security operation. Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church issued a similar statement shortly after, echoing its solidarity with the Armed Forces.