The Egyptian army announced on Friday the start of a wide-scale military operation in the central and north Sinai Peninsula, in addition to other areas in the country, the New Gulf has reported. The objective is to track down members of armed extremist groups and criminal gangs.
"The forces of law enforcement have started their operations… to consolidate control over the border areas of the State of Egypt," explained army spokesman Tamer Al-Refae in a pre-recorded statement. He called for the people of Egypt to cooperate with the troops, by helping to enforce the law and report any suspects.
The operation comes at the end of the three-month ultimatum announced by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to use "brute force" to get rid of armed groups in Sinai. Al-Sisi is said to be looking for any positive achievement ahead of the upcoming presidential elections slated for March.
Over the past week, tribal sources reported that the Egyptian authorities sent military reinforcements to Sinai, including tanks, armoured vehicles and bulldozers. Special Forces operated by the Interior Ministry are also known to have been deployed.
Local sources have revealed that the army bases in Sinai have been fortified with specially-imported barricades to protect them against car bombs and rocket-propelled grenade attacks.
Sinai has witnessed violent clashes between the army and armed groups since 2014. Hundreds of soldiers and police officers have been killed by the extremists. Whole towns near the border with Gaza have been evacuated on the pretext that they were harbouring the armed groups.