Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Chaos in Sinai; Islamists and police battle. Tourism minister says "come over!"

From YNet:
Egyptian military troops and jets killed 20 terrorists in the Sinai region bordering Israel on Wednesday, striking back after armed men attacked several security checkpoints, an army commander in Sinai told Reuters.

"We have succeeded in entering al-Toumah village, killed 20 terrorists and destroyed three armored cars belonging to terrorists. Operations are still ongoing," he told Reuters.

Security officials say it is the first time that the army has fired missiles in Sinai since Egypt's 1973 war with Israel, which was an attempt to recapture the Sinai Peninsula.

The military offensive follows attacks on Sunday that killed 16 border guards and which the government blamed partly on Islamist militants. The commander said the army had received information that many militants were in al-Toumah village.

Officials say six people were wounded in the attacks - among them a military officer, two soldiers, two policemen and a civilian whose condition is critical.

Security officials said the military also carried out separate attacks just outside Sheikh Zuwayed.

Witnesses in Sheikh Zuwayed, about 10 km (six miles) from Gaza, said they saw two military jets and heard sounds of explosions. Other witnesses in a nearby area said they saw three cars hit.

Egyptian media are reporting that the terrorists responded to the attack by firing anti-aircraft missiles at one of the apache helicopters, which eventually left the scene having escaped several downing attempts.

Meanwhile, eye witnesses told The Guardian and Arabic-language Sky News that several fighter jets are taking part in the assault. Other reports said that the attack involves four fighter jets, 30 armored vehicles and dozens of Egyptian troops

The strikes follow clashes between armed men and security forces at several security checkpoints in the Sinai region.

Armed men opened fire on several checkpoints in Arish and in the nearby town of Rafah on the border with Israel, according to a Reuters reporter and state media.

An army officer, a police official and an officer were injured in the clashes. The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced that the army traced the gunmen's hiding places with the help of Sinai residents.
And Egypt is encouraging you to visit!
Egypt's newly-appointed Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou has denied that there has been any negative impact on tourism following the recent attack on the Egyptian-Gaza border by unknown assailants which left 16 Egyptian border guards dead and seven injured.

Zazou confirmed to Ahram Online that tourism agencies have not yet cancelled reservations, saying that he called them in person to make sure.

He stressed that tourists should feel secure again in the country, adding that this is supposed to be one of the president's priorities.

Elhamy El-Zayat, the head of the Egypt Tourism Federation, warns of another shock to the sector in the country, particularly as the Sinai attack was preceded by two bloody clashes in Giza and Cairo.

El-Zayat said that the total loss to the tourism sector in 2011 is estimated to be LE5 billion ($833.3 million), and one third of the workers in this field were laid off.

The tourism industry in Egypt employs around four million people.

By the way...
Egyptian authorities on Tuesday detained a suspected Palestinian arms dealer in the Sinai peninsula town of el-Arish shortly after arrival, officials said.

The man, identified only as "A.A." was detained along with his wife and son. They were waiting to face legal measures at the el-Arish police station, officials in Gaza told Ma'an.