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Officials deny presence of ISIL fighters in Gaza, Sinai

June 29, 2014 4:30 P.M. (Updated: June 29, 2014 10:39 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Both Egyptian and Palestinian officials denied on Sunday the presence of any fighters affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the Gaza Strip and the neighboring Sinai Peninsula.

In Gaza, spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Interior Iyad al-Buzm said that earlier claims by an Egyptian security source that 15 fighters affiliated with the Wahhabi militant movement had entered Sinai from the Gaza Strip via smuggling tunnels were "false and baseless."

"These were lies and fabrications," he said, "seeking to defame the Gaza Strip."

Al-Buzm said all smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip had been destroyed by the Egyptian army, making such a journey impossible.

The spokesman added that Palestinian national security forces are deployed along the borders with Egypt to prevent any attempts to cross the border.

All militant groups operating in Gaza are affiliated with Palestinian factions and there is no presence of ISIL, which is based in Iraq and Syria, he said.

Egyptian military sources also denied the news reports being broadcast on Egyptian media regarding the crossing of 15 ISIL fighters from Gaza into Sinai.

The sources told a Ma'an reporter in El-Arish in the northern Sinai that there is not a single fighter from the movement in Sinai Peninsula and that the reports about fighters arrested in Sinai were "fabrications."

The Egyptian army is in complete control over the Sinai Peninsula, especially zones of intense insurgent activity in Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid, and el-Arish, added the Egyptian military officials.

"There is a big difference between the security situation in Sinai this year and the year before in terms of the control the Egyptian army has achieved."

Officials in a number of countries across the region have raised warning bells about the potential for ISIL expansion after the group overran half of Iraq in the course of a few days in mid-June.

The offensive from the group's bases in eastern Syria reached the suburbs of Baghdad and shocked the world, leading to a rapid campaign by Iran, the United States, Russia, and others to prop up the Iraqi government to face the group's highly-effective 5,000 member force.
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