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Troops, armored tanks deploy in Sinai

July 16, 2013 7:15 A.M. (Updated: July 19, 2013 2:35 A.M.)
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- The first wave of heavily armored vehicles and troops arrived in Sinai's el-Arish on Tuesday as the Egyptian army "prepares for a fight" in the peninsula, military sources said.

Egyptian soldiers deployed from an army base in Ismailia. Some 25 tank carriers, rocket launchers and armored personnel carriers were seen crossing the Suez Canal bridge in el-Arish on Tuesday morning, heading to Rafah on the Gaza border.

More military vehicles will arrive Tuesday evening, a senior Egyptian military official told Ma'an.

The official said the military is undertaking a large-scale operation to wipe out over 50 "terrorist cells" in the restive peninsula.

Soldiers are prepared for armed clashes and will not return until the "last terrorist falls," he added.

Soldiers will also respond to any security incidents that arise along the Gaza Strip border, particularly during protests planned for Friday. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a "day of decision" on Friday and is planning protests in Cairo and Sinai, the military official said.

Israel gives go-ahead

Israel's defense minister on Tuesday confirmed giving Egypt the go-ahead to deploy two battalions in Sinai, where deployments are restricted under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between the two neighbors.

Speaking to army radio, Moshe Yaalon said he had approved a request from the Egyptian army to station one battalion at el-Arish in the north of the peninsula and one at Sharm el-Sheikh in the south.

"Egypt presented us over the last few days with requests to allow additional forces to enter to combat terrorism," Yaalon said.

"When these forces are involved in the fight against terrorism, as long as we're consulted and it does not violate the treaty between the two countries, we accept their requests so they can remove the terror threat from Sinai," he said.

Israel already gave its backing earlier this month to Egypt's deployment of a first batch of troop reinforcements to Sinai.

"The Egyptian military activity in the Sinai is coordinated with Israeli security elements and authorized at the most senior levels in Israel, in order to contend with security threats in the Sinai that pose a threat to both Israel and Egypt," an army statement said at the time.

Islamist militants have escalated attacks in Sinai since President Mohamed Mursi's overthrow on July 3.

Over the past two weeks, militants have launched almost daily attacks on troops and police in the peninsula, killing several members of the security forces and two Egyptian Christians.

At dawn on Monday, militants killed three workers from a cement factory in an attack on the bus in which they were traveling in el-Arish.

A senior Egyptian military official told AFP on Monday that the army knew the militant leaders by name and their location, and that most of the militants "live with their family, in villages."

AFP contributed to this report.
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