Egypt vows to take complete control of the Sinai peninsula | News | DW | 06.08.2012
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Egypt vows to take complete control of the Sinai peninsula

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has vowed to bring to justice the perpetrators of an attack in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 16 members of the security forces. The Egyptian army is set to take control of the area.

Egyptian state television and Israeli authorities have blamed the attack on Islamist extremists.

However, the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has denied that Palestinian militants were responsible.

The attack Sunday took place around sunset near the Egyptian border town of Rafah, when the troops at the checkpoint were having the traditional meal at the end of the daily fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Egypt then shut the border crossing with Gaza, which is the only gateway to the outside world for the territory's 1.6 million people.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi convened an emergency meeting with military and security leaders following the attack, and later declared that Egyptian troops would now retake complete control of the Sinai peninsula.

Egypt's military sent tanks and soldiers into the Sinai last year to fight Islamist militants, after receiving permission from Israel. The 1979 peace treaty between the two countries limits Egypt's presence in the area.

In a statement late Sunday, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party urged Egyptian authorities to “confront this serious challenge to Egyptian sovereignty and to protect Sinai from all armed groups.”

The Sinai had been quiet in the three decades since Israel and Egypt signed the peace agreement, but the situation has become volatile since Egypt's longtime President Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year.

Militants have repeatedly attacked Israel from the peninsula over the past weeks, leading that country to begin building a 240-kilometre (150-mile) long wall fitted with an electronic alert system along the border with Egypt to avert attacks and block the entry of illegal African migrants.

Netanyahu sends condolences

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sadness at the deaths of the Egyptian soldiers, saying that it was clear "that Israel and and Egypt have a joint interest in a quiet border."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has meanwhile said eight militants had been killed by Israeli forces airstrikes when they attempted to breach the Israeli border following the attack near Rafah.

He said he hoped the latest cross-border assault in would serve as a "wake-up call" to Egypt.

Israeli intelligence services have admitted to having known of an impending attack ahead of Sunday's events and had been able to prepare.

Israel has offered to help Egypt get the situation in Sinai under control.

rg, ng/sej (AP, Reuters, AFP)