Egyptian security forces have killed 11 militants in a shootout in al-Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, state news agency MENA reported on Wednesday, as authorities pushed ahead with an operation to crush Islamic State.
The shootout occurred during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in an abandoned house in al-Arish, MENA said, citing an un-named security source. Three machine guns and a rifle were found at the hideout, MENA said.
The report did not mention any casualties or wounded among the security forces.
Interior ministry officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.
Egypt in February launched a highly-publicized operation against Islamic State militants who have waged years of attacks on security forces and civilians, killing hundreds.
The death of the 11 brings the total of those killed since the beginning of the operation to at least 261 suspected militants, according to a Reuters count based on military statements. At least 35 military personnel have also been killed since February, according to a Reuters count based on military statements.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the armed forces in November to defeat militants within three months after an attack on a mosque in Sinai killed more than 300 people.
Defeating Islamists and restoring security after years of unrest has been a promise of Sisi, who was re-elected in March in a landslide victory against no real opposition.
Sisi’s critics say his presidency has brought a harsh crackdown on dissent, but supporters say such measures are needed to stabilize Egypt, which was rocked by years of unrest after protests toppled veteran leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Libya National Army (LNA) led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, surrounded a group of Islamic State terrorists near central Jufra district.
According to the eastern-based Libyan news agency, the army’s oil fields security operation chamber revealed it was surrounding an IS group who attacked an oil field near Jufra, some 650 km southeast of the capital Tripoli.
The operation chamber announced state of alert after receiving information about a mobilization of IS militants in an area far from the oil fields.
Jufra district is located in central Libya and consists of five small towns. It also contains Zalla basin, an important area with a number of major oil fields.
“The armed forces of the operation chamber are fully prepared and ready to face any threat or attack on the area and the surrounding fields,” said Col. Yousef Abdulgader Saeed, commander of the operation chamber.
IS affiliates are mostly active in the areas surrounding Jufra all the way to southern Libya due to the nature of rugged desert.
In the past few years, IS terrorists have launched a number of attacks on oil fields in Zalla basin.
Israel threatened a “harsh response” on Monday to any attempt by Syrian forces advancing against southern rebel areas to deploy in a Golan Heights frontier zone that was demilitarized under a 44-year-old U.N. monitored truce between the neighboring foes, like reported by usnews.com.
Syrian government forces backed by Russia have launched an offensive in the southern Deraa province and are widely expected to move on rebel-held Quneitra, which is within a part of the Syrian Golan covered by the armistice.
Israel worries that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could let its enemies Iran and Hezbollah move forces into the area, giving them a foothold near its border. Tehran and the Lebanese group both back Assad in the complex conflict.
“For our part we will sanctify the 1974 disengagement agreement, and there too we will insist that every last letter be abided by, and any violation with meet a harsh response from the State of Israel,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his parliamentary faction in broadcast remarks.
Assad’s conduct in southern Syria is expected to come up in talks in Moscow on Wednesday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia, whose 2015 intervention in the Syrian civil war turned the tide in Assad’s favor, has largely turned a blind eye to repeated Israeli air strikes in Syria targeting suspected Iranian or Hezbollah emplacements and arms transfers.
But diplomats on both sides say Russia has made clear that it would oppose any Israeli action endangering Assad’s rule.
On Sunday night, Syria said its air defense repelled an Israeli sorties against the T4 air base in Homs province, where seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps personnel died in an April 9 attack that Damascus and Tehran also blamed on Israel.
Israel, in keeping with its customary reticence on such operations, declined all comment.
“Regarding yesterday – I read about it in the newspapers today and I have nothing to add,” Lieberman said on Monday.
“Perhaps just one thing, that our policy has not changed. We will not allow Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and we will not allow Syrian soil to be turned into a vanguard against the State of Israel. Nothing has changed. There is nothing new.”
Israel will form a special task force to combat Palestinian arson terrorism that has been wreaking havoc on Israeli communities adjacent to the Israel-Gaza Strip border, like reported by israelhayom.com.
Fire and Rescue Commissioner David Simchi announced the move on Sunday, saying the task force would be exclusively responsible for dealing with fires sparked by incendiary kites and firebomb balloons sent over the border.
Palestinian kite terrorism, which has been ravaging Gaza-vicinity communities since late April, has so far sparked 860 fires. Over 8,000 acres of forest and agricultural land on the Israeli side of the border have been decimated, causing millions of dollars in damage.
The Nature and Parks Authority said the fires have destroyed 25% of all nature reserves near the border. The damage to the area’s flora and fauna will take years to rehabilitate, it said.
The decision to establish the task force was made over the relentless nature of the kite campaign, which Hamas – the terrorist group that rules Gaza – refuses to curtail.
If anything, Hamas operatives have been trying to upgrade the kites to fly deeper into Israeli territory.
Fire and Rescue Services data indicates that there are five points along the 60-kilometer (37-mile) border between Gaza and Israel from where terrorists fly incendiary devices.
While fires near the border rage daily, the data also shows a decrease in the overall number of major blazes, which the Fire and Rescue Services attributes to the firefighters’ readiness on the ground as well as to the fact that, given the devastation in the area, new fires have fewer areas into which they can spread.
”The new task force will adapt to the dynamic nature of operations on the ground and will allow the teams currently deployed near the Gaza border to return to their normal missions,” Simchi said Sunday.
He noted that the task force will also coordinate wide-scale missions with the IDF, Israel Police, Jewish National Fund, Nature and Parks Authority and the heads of the local communities.
The border-vicinity area will be split into two sectors. Large firefighting teams will be assigned to each sector and they will have a variety of advanced measures at their disposal, including all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles recently purchased by the Public Security Ministry.
The new vehicles are equipped with special gear to carry water and flame retarding agents and are meant to be used as a first response ahead of the firefighters’ arrival at the scene.
Six members of Tunisia’s security forces were killed Sunday in a “terrorist attack” near the border with Algeria, the interior ministry said, the country’s deadliest such incident in over two years.
A national guard border patrol in the Ain Sultan area of the Jenduba border province “was hit in a landmine ambush that killed six agents” at 11:45 a.m. (1045 GMT), the ministry said in a statement.
Ministry spokesman Gen. Sufyan al-Zaq said the blast was a “terrorist attack” and that assailants had “opened fire on security forces” after the mine exploded.
“Combing operations” were underway, said Zaq, who had earlier told AFP that eight guards were killed in the attack.
No group has claimed the attack, which took place in a mountainous border area where the al-Qaida-linked Okba Ibn Nafaa Battalion and the Tunisian branch of the Islamic State group, Jund al-Khilafa (Soldiers of the Caliphate), are active.
Sunday’s assault marks the first major attack in Tunisia since a March 2016 attack on security installations in the town of Ben Guerdane on the Libyan border.
That attack killed 13 security forces and seven civilians.
The latest incident comes as Tunisia is targeting its best tourist season since visitor numbers plummeted in the wake of a string of deadly jihadist attacks in 2015.
Tunisia’s tourism industry was devastated by those attacks, which included one at the National Bardo museum in Tunis and another targeting a beach resort in Sousse that together killed 59 foreign tourists and a Tunisian guard.
In May, Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi Rekik said the industry had made a “real recovery.
“People are coming back to Tunisia because there is security … we are at the same level (of security) as any European city,” she said.
Since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, jihadist attacks in Tunisia have killed dozens of members of the security forces and foreign tourists.
Since Ben Ali’s fall, “at least 127 militants and 118 soldiers, national guardsmen, and police officers have been killed in the northwest”, according to figures compiled by analyst Matt Herbert and published in June by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“This new attack shows that there are still pockets where security problems have not been solved,” he told AFP on Sunday, while stressing “the vast majority of Tunisia remains safe.
The country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when an IS-claimed suicide bombing in Tunis killed 12 presidential guards.
The General Command of the Egyptian Armed Forces on Tuesday issued communiqué no. 25 on recent developments in the military’s Operation Sinai 2018, like reported by ahram.org.eg.
The armed forces launched Operation Sinai 2018 in February to target terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in north and central Sinai, parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert.
Operation Sinai 2018 involves the army, navy, border patrol, air force and police.
The 25th communiqué stated that the following results were achieved over the past days:
Egypt’s air force destroyed five vehicles and an administrative supply depot belonging to terrorist elements.
Three “takfiris”, who possessed an automatic rifle and munitions, were killed and 59 suspects were arrested in north and central Sinai.
The operations also resulted in the destruction of 12 vehicle used by terrorists in attacking security posts.
A fuel depot and a workshop used to armour vehicles used by terrorist elements were also destroyed during combing and raid missions.
The operations also destroyed 285 hideouts and a storage depo in central and north Sinai, where munitions, TNT, wireless communication devices and takfiri books were found.
Army engineers discovered and detonated ten IEDs which were planted to target troops in operation zones.
The communique added that the forces had also discovered and destroyed a number of tunnels in the city of Rafah in North Sinai.
The naval forces continue to secure the country’s seas, and to block supply lines to terrorist elements and secure strategic marine posts, the communiqué added.
A conscripted soldier was injured during fighting against terrorist elements, and two civilians were killed after an explosive device placed to target raiding units in their routes detonated.
As well, border patrol forces on the western strategic front discovered a large number of birdshot rifles, three sniper rifles, an automatic rifle, and hundreds of bullets.
On the same front, the border patrol forces also discovered and confiscated 1,928 kilograms of cannabis, 3 million drug pills, 66 gold items, and eight 4×4 vehicles used in smuggling operations.
The communique explained that these operations come as part “of the sacrifices rendered by the men of the armed forces and the police in chasing and routing the terrorist elements, and to buttress the capacity to secure land and sea borders in all strategic directions.”
The central bureau for judiciary investigations (BCJI), under the general directorate for territory surveillance, arrested four individuals linked to the Islamic State terrorist organization (ISIS) and operating in the cities of Casablanca, Tangier, Nador and Tiznit, says the Interior ministry.
In addition to their total adherence to ISIS’s destructive agenda and propaganda actions in favor of this terrorist organization, the investigations carried out by the security services revealed that the arrested members were acquiring skills in the manufacture of explosives to commit terrorist operations in the Kingdom, the ministry points out in a statement.
The Israeli military sent additional tanks and artillery cannons to the Syrian border on Sunday in light of a renewed offensive by dictator Bashar Assad and the Russian military against the remaining rebel holdouts in the country’s southwest, the army said according to toi.com.
The reinforcements were sent to the Israel Defense Forces’ 210th Bashan Division, which guards the Golan Heights, the army said.
“This was [done] as part of IDF preparations and preparedness in light of developments in the Syrian Golan Heights near the border,” the IDF said in a statement.
The military vowed a “determined response” to any strike — deliberate or accidental — that hits Israeli territory from Syria.
“The IDF sees great importance in maintaining the armistice agreement between Israel and Syria from 1974,” the army said.
“The IDF will continue to uphold its principle of non-involvement in what is happening in Syria, alongside a policy of delivering a determined response to violations of the sovereignty of the State of Israel and threats to its citizens,” the IDF said.
Since the renewed campaign by Assad’s forces, with aerial support from Russia and ground assistance from Iran-backed militias, began earlier this month against rebel-held towns in the Daraa province, which abuts Israel and Jordan, some 160,000 Syrian nationals have fled their homes and traveled to the borders of the two countries, seeking refuge.
Both Israel and Jordan have stated that they will not accept refugees, but have provided humanitarian aid to the displaced people.
Last week, the IDF announced it had delivered several tons of humanitarian aid — food, clothes, medicine — to southern Syria in light of the deteriorating situation in the hastily erected displaced person camps near the border.
Israel on Friday night also brought in six injured Syrians, four of them children orphaned in the Syrian-Russian attacks, for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.
“Israel has been giving humanitarian aid for years and will continue now in light of the need for it,” the army said.
On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would provide assistance, but not allow refugees into Israel.
“We will continue to defend our borders. We will extend humanitarian assistance to the extent of our abilities. We will not allow entry into our territory and we will demand that the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement with the Syrian army be strictly upheld,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
The prime minister added that he, the defense minister and the IDF chief of staff were all in constant contact with the United States and Russia — the two main powerbrokers in Syria — about the fighting in the country’s southwest.
Since June 19, backed by Russia, the Damascus regime has carried out a deadly bombing campaign in southern Syria as it pushes to retake the strategic area bordering Jordan and the Israeli Golan Heights.
As of Saturday, government forces controlled more than half of Daraa, up from just 30 percent at the start of the operation, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Eight towns in the province returned to regime control under Russia-brokered deals, the Observatory said.
That came “after talks in each town between Russian generals as well as local notables and remaining rebels,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The so-called “reconciliation” deals for the towns’ surrender are the latest in a string of such agreements across the country that have seen the government retake opposition-held areas, often after devastating air and ground offensives.
Retaking the whole of Daraa province would be a symbolic victory for the regime, as it is seen as the cradle of the anti-Assad uprising seven years ago that spiraled into civil war.
Regime forces continued to bombard other parts of Daraa province on Saturday, with airstrikes killing at least 15 civilians, according to the Observatory.
Unidentified airstrikes killed 10 civilians including five children in the rebel-held town of Al-Sahwa, the Britain-based monitor said.
The recent escalation comes despite Daraa and opposition-held parts of neighboring Quneitra province being included in a so-called “de-escalation zone” agreed on by Russia, the United States and Jordan last year.
Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), implored the international community to speak out against the violence.
“We call on the international community to condemn the brutal breaching of the de-escalation zone… and take all possible measures to halt this assault on our people,” SNC spokesman Yahya al-Aridi said in a statement.
In total, 115 civilians have been killed in regime bombardment on the province since June 19. In that same period, 96 pro-regime fighters and at least 59 rebels have lost their lives.
The spike in violence in Daraa over the past two weeks has forced around 160,000 people to flee their homes, according to initial United Nations estimates.
These include around 20,000 to areas near the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, a country that already hosts more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees and says the actual figure is closer to 1.3 million. Thousands more have fled to the border with Israel on the Golan Heights.
Amman has said it cannot open its frontier to any more Syrians fleeing the seven-year conflict, but on Saturday announced it had sent aid across the border to the displaced.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria since the war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry says its forces have killed six militants in a raid on their hideout in Beheira province, north of Cairo, like reported by dailymail.co.uk.
The ministry said in a statement Thursday the militants belonged to Hasm, a group it considers to be a splinter of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. It said two others were arrested.
On Wednesday, a security official said four militants were killed in a shootout in southern Assiut province. The ministry confirmed those fatalities in Thursday’s statement.
The ministry said the militants killed in both raids were behind an explosion that targeted the convoy of Alexandria’s former security chief in March. The official survived but two policemen were killed.
Hasm routinely targets security personnel. Militant attacks have surged in Egypt since the 2013 military ouster of an elected Islamist president.