Egypt 'Set to Launch Major Sinai Operation'
Egypt is planning a large scale offensive against Sinai terrorists, where it has already killed scores of Islamist fighters - including 32 Hamas men - in recent days, according to reports.
Egyptian forces also arrested several others over the past few days in the Sinai Peninsula, an Egyptian military source told the London-based Arabic-language al-Hayat newspaper Thursday morning.
According to the newspaper, the Egyptian army's military operations in Sinai killed 32 Hamas militants and arrested 45 of the group's members, as well as about 200 other gunmen.
The Egyptian military source said Hamas terrorists cooperate with jihadist elements in Sinai. They enter Sinai through the tunnels that connect Gaza with Sinai, he said, carry out attacks and then escape through the tunnels. "They take advantage of the terrain and hide in the mountains," the source added.
Another report claims that the military leadership in Cairo is planning a wider offensive in Sinai. The London Times said that Egypt will ask Israel to allow it to send a sizeable military force into Sinai for a limited period of time.
"Jihadist groups have sought to exploit the political crisis in Cairo by launching attacks against Egyptian and Israeli targets in Sinai over recent days," noted the Times.
Current treaties between the two countries prohibit large-scale military mobilisations in the Sinai Peninsula, but Israel is unlikely to oppose such an operation, intended to clear Sinai from extremist terror groups that have gained a foothold there since the fall of the Mubarak regime in 2011, and who pose a serious threat to Israel's southern regions.
The operation is scheduled to begin in a few days' time, the report added.
Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters have recently called for an "uprising" following the removal of President Mohammed Morsi by the Egyptian military.
Hamas has in the past been accused by the Egyptian military establishment of working with other Islamist terrorist groups to destabilise the country.