MORE FIGHTING IN SINAI

Report: Egyptian police clash with armed men in north Sinai

Egyptian police clashed with armed men in northern Sinai’s main town al-Arish, state television reported on Thursday, a day after security forces began a crackdown on Islamist militants in the region.

“Clashes resumed between armed men and police forces in front of police station number two in al-Arish,” Nile News television reported, citing its correspondent there. (Reuters)

Egypt pours military might into North Sinai

(CNN) — Gunmen attacked a police station Thursday in North Sinai, firing several rounds, the latest in a string of violence in the critical area.

Egypt sent a huge convoy of military reinforcements into the region in hopes of bringing security and stability. Heavy equipment including bulldozers and cranes were brought in to help block smuggling tunnels into the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

A police station that was burned down during the uprising in Egypt in January of last year reopened Thursday “to restore law and order back to the highly sensitive area of Sheikh Zuweid, where recent clashes took place between the army and armed militants,” said Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of North Sinai security.

The developments come days after 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded when assailants with semiautomatic weapons and hand grenades stole two armored vehicles from Egyptian forces and tried to enter Israel.

That attack, which took place Sunday near the Rafah border crossing, led Egypt to shut the border indefinitely.

Clashes in the area have intensified since.

Masked gunmen launched six simultaneous attacks in North Sinai early Wednesday, wounding five security officers and a civilian. The targets included five security checkpoints and a military cement factory, Bakr said.

Egyptian forces responded with aerial strikes aimed at militants.

Army Apache helicopters fired rockets Wednesday, and there were numerous casualties, Bakr said. State-run Nile TV reported that aerial strikes killed at least 20 in the port town of El Arish.

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Egypt demands hand over of 3 Hamas terrorists

Palestinian paper al Quds claims Izz al-Din al-Qassam members wanted in connection with logistical assistance provided to Sinai Islamists; arrest not directly linked to Rafah attack

Palestinian newspaper al Quds quoted a senior security official as saying Thursday that Egyptian intelligence services have demanded that Hamas hand over three senior members of its military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam.

According to the official, Hamas has agreed, but the three members have refused to surrender to authorities in fear of being tortured.

The three terrorists are Ayman Nufal, Raad al-Attar and Muhammad abu Smala. The official stressed that the request, which was transmitted to Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, is not linked to their direct involvement in Sunday’s Rafah attack, but rather to the possibility that the three were involved in logistics assistance provided to arms smuggling and Islamist groups active in Sinai.

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