Egypt on Thursday sent reinforcements to the Sinai peninsula as it pursues a military campaign against Muslim militants suspected of killing 16 of its soldiers.
Troops have been positioned in Al Arish, the capital of the North Sinai province, ahead of renewed raids on militant strongholds, according to witnesses.
The reinforcements were expected to head to the towns of Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah, near the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, added the witnesses.
The military said it had started a campaign against the “hotbeds of terrorists” in the huge desert peninsula.
The army said in a statement broadcast on state television that the offensive had made an initial success and would continue.
The offensive is in response to an assault mounted on Sunday by unknown gunmen on an army outpost in Rafah that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead and seven injured, according to government figures.
Warplanes, tanks and armoured vehicles are being used in the onslaught, Egypt’s largest since 1973, when it launched a surprise attack against Israel to recapture the peninsula, which Israel had seized six years earlier. The two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979.
The crackdown marks a U—turn in Egypt’s response to security breakdown in Sinai. Over the past year, Islamist militants are believed to have been responsible for several attacks on a pipeline that exports gas to Israel, as well as raids on police stations in the sparsely populated peninsula.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy has sacked the chief of the country’s intelligence service and the North Sinai governor following Sunday’s attack, the deadliest against the army in decades.DPA