The Supreme Council of Armed Forces released a statement Monday afternoon detailing the deadly attack that took place near Rafah Sunday, while the Egypt Daily News’ own source has added further details.
According to SCAF, a group of 35 terrorists carried out the attack which left 16 guards dead and 7 more injured, 3 of them critically.
Conflicting reports circulated after the attacks, making it difficult to ascertain details. According to the Daily News Egypt’s sources in Sinai, Egyptian soliders were initially attacked with knives and then had their weapons seized.
Mostafa Ghareeb, a Palestinian resident of Sinai, said that the armed, masked men attacked the guards at a place called Mark 6 located at the border during the time for sunset prayers using bladed weapons.
At that point, “they managed to get a hold of the army’s weapons and armoured vehicles,” said Ghareeb, adding that six were killed in this initial attack.
Using the armoured vehicles stolen from the Egyptian army, the attackers attempted to cross into Israel but when they reached the Karm Abu Salem border crossing, also known as Kerem Shalom, they were chased back into Egypt.
“When they went to the Karm Abu Salem border crossing, Israeli forces fired back at them. At that point, they returned to a place called Horreya (Freedom) in Rafah where they shot at Central Security Forces until 11:30 at night killing 15 of them,” said Ghareeb.
The ensuing battle only ended when an Israeli Apache helicopter crossed the border and bombed the armoured vehicle, according to Ghareeb.
According to Ghareeb, the border crossings between Egypt and the Gaza strip and the underground tunnels have been closed at the request of Hamas. “Hamas doesn’t want anyone involved in the operation to go inside Gaza and if they did go inside, it doesn’t want them to leave,” Ghareeb explained. “They want the borders closed off until this issue is sorted out.”
Mohamed El Assal, head of 6 April (Ahmed Maher) in North Sinai confirmed to the Daily News Egypt that one of the two armoured vehicles which were stolen was destroyed by an Israeli plane. The other armoured vehicle, he said “was controlled inside Egyptian territory.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks yet, which hasn’t stopped people speculating as to which extremist group carried them out.
Following the attack, many young activists in North Sinai took to the streets of Al-Arish, condemning the attack, said Moahmed El Baek, a 6 April (Ahmed Maher) North Sinai activist.
“Both the 6 April Ahmed Maher and 6 April Democratic Front took part in the protests, so did members of the Freedom and Justice Party, political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in addition to other groups,” said Al-Baek.
Al-Baek who took part in the protests said, “there were around 120 in each march so in total we were around 500 to 600.”
Following the attack, Egyptian security increased its presence in the region.
However, Al-Assal, does not believe in the seriousness of their efforts. “There has been a problem with police presence here. They have good equipments, and fancy cars that come and go but it’s only for show,” said Al-Assal.
“There is plenty of weapons here, no control over thuggery or attempts to put a stop to violations.”
Al-Assal said that he tried to approach officials with the problem, including the Mayor of North Sinai, but “there was no positive reaction and the response can even be insulting at times.”
Al-Assal said the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid are “predominantly tribal and Bedouin in nature, there is no police presence in some of the villages there.
“There’s only mixed police and army checkpoints at the roads. ”
Correction: the activists previously referred to members of 6 April Democratic Front are not. They are members of 6 April (Ahmed Maher).