Eight Egyptians killed after destruction of Gaza smuggling tunnels

Eight Egyptians were killed in Rafah shortly after the Egyptian president had announced a successful conclusion to a military operation to destroy Gaza smuggling tunnels.

Egypt cracks down on Sinai Peninsula

An Egyptian army vehicle in an operation against the Sinai Peninsula in Rafah. (AP/Ahmed Abd El Latif, El Shorouk Newspaper)

By Lauren Calin, World Israel News

Four soldiers and four civilians were killed on the Egyptian side of Rafah Wednesday by bombs likely planted by an Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate. The explosions occurred four days after Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi had announced the end of a successful military campaign to destroy terror tunnels leading from Gaza into Egypt. Earlier this week, the Egyptian army announced that it killed 725 terrorists in security operations since last October.

“The armed forces and police have so far destroyed 150 terror bases and arrested 188 terrorists,” the Egyptian president was quoted as saying in the Arab media. “Takfirists [heretics] and terrorists were planning to do something in Sinai, but we spoiled their plans.”

According to al-Sisi, 80 percent of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt were destroyed in the military operation. The tunnels are primarily located in the city of Rafah, which straddles the border, and have been used to smuggle weapons into Gaza as well as to stage attacks against Egyptian security personnel. Egypt has also expanded the security buffer around the Gaza Strip to three kilometers in some locations.

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Despite the success, eight Egyptians died in two separate bombings in Rafah on Wednesday. Two officers and two soldiers were killed while attempting to diffuse one of seven bombs that were planted in order to target military personnel. Four Bedouin tribesmen were later killed when their car traveled over a roadside bomb. Security officials are blaming Sinai Province (Wilayat Sinai), formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a terrorist organization whose members swore allegiance to ISIS in November 2014.

ISIS bombing

A bombed Egyptian police station. (AP/Muhamed Sabry. File)

Sinai Province’s primary targets are Egyptian soldiers and police. It glorified a series of northern Sinai attacks in a newly released video in which a terrorist proclaimed, “Before conquering Jerusalem we will kill you.” The group has also carried out a number of attacks against Israel, including crossing the border to ambush Israeli soldiers in 2012 and periodically shooting rockets at Eilat. Leaders of Sinai Province have managed to avoid Egyptian crackdowns by hiding inside Gaza, where the terrorist organization established an offshoot called the Islamic State of Gaza.

Terrorism has been on the rise in Egypt since the coup that ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.