By Ahmed Selouma
CAIRO (AA) - The Egyptian army on Friday announced the imminent launch of a wide-ranging operation aimed at targeting “terrorist elements” in the Sinai Peninsula, according to army spokesman Colonel Tamer al-Rifai.
“The Egyptian armed forces and police elements have been mobilized for a comprehensive operation… aimed at purging Sinai of terrorist elements,” al-Rifai was quoted as saying on the army’s Facebook page.
The spokesman gave no further details, including the date on which the operation is slated to begin.
On Jan. 19, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered the evacuation of a 5-kilometer zone near the Al-Arish airport in northeastern Sinai.
Late last year, the Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the airport in which an Egyptian army officer was killed and two others were injured.
The Al-Arish International Airport is located roughly 8 kilometers from the headquarters of Egypt’s North Sinai Security Directorate.
Civilian flights at the airport have been suspended since 2013 due to the precarious security situation in and around Al-Arish, which stands close to the borders of both Israel and the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The Sinai Peninsula has remained the epicenter of a militant insurgency since 2013, when the army ousted Mohamed Morsi -- Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader -- in a bloody military coup.