Colonel Ahmed Ali, army spokesman, said that the “spread of terrorism” in the Sinai Peninsula is “the product of the negligence of the state,” in a press conference held in the State Information Service headquarters on Sunday; the conference took place in order to announce the results of the army operations in Sinai. “The terrorist groups took advantage of this to fulfill their dubious goals,” Ali added.
The press conference began by showing a documentary about the Army’s operations in Sinai.
Ali declared that the army transformed its operations in the peninsula from reaction regarding the attacks on its forces to action to “purify Sinai from the terrorizing elements” who pose “a threat, not only to national security, but also regional and international security.”
Ali said that the army was surprised with the “sudden escalation of terrorist attacks in Sinai after 30 June 2013,” which led the army to similarly escalate their own operations by the second half of August.
Ali revealed that in the last two days, the Border Guards foiled two attempts to attack border checkpoints by placing 150-kilogram-IEDs in tunnels under the checkpoints and detonating them remotely from the Gaza strip.
The army spokesman also announced some results regarding the operations in Sinai, including the arrest of 309 militants, confiscation of an undisclosed number of mortars, machine guns, RPG’s, ten tons of highly-explosive TNT, ammunition with an Al-Qassam Brigades label and seven firearms stores. The army also confiscated three flying equipments, known as “Bat Birds”, which Ali considered a “qualitative evolution in the arming of the militant groups.” Eighty to ninety percent of the tunnels between Rafah and the Gaza strip were destroyed, according to Ali.
Ali said that a buffer zone of 500 to 1000 meters will be applied on the eastern borders, “but not fully.”.He accused the Hamas government in the Gaza strip of not securing its borders with Egypt “the way it should.” Ali announced that any houses close to the borders that are considered “a threat to national security” will be evacuated, and their owners compensated.
During the press conference, a video showing the confessions of some of those arrested in Sinai was played. A large number of the arrested declared that they are from Gaza.
The army spokesman said that it is “too early” for talks involving the amendment of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, but revealed that there is a “mutual understanding” with Israel.
Ali discussed the arrest of journalist Ahmed Abu Deraa, clarifying that he is neither a journalist nor a member of the press syndicate. Ali added that Abu Deraa was arrested in a military area restricted to civilians, and is charged with intentionally spreading false news about the Armed Forces’ operations in Sinai. When asked why Abu Deraa was not tried in front of a civil court, Ali answered that his trial is under the jurisdiction of the military court.
The army spokesman said that he “does not know why the foreign media use the term “military government” when referring to the interim government in Egypt.
He denied the claims that the army used excessive force in Sinai, saying that if that have happened, “we would have finished terrorism off in 24 hours.”
Ali announced that the army will not retreat from Sinai before the “total purification” of the peninsula, adding that a developmental process will begin in Sinai amid the end of the operations.