Speaking to Al-Ahram Arabic news website on Saturday, an informed source denied claims of coordination between the Egyptian armed forces and Israel in the attack launched on Friday in North Sinai, but did reveal details of the military operation.
According to the anonymous source, the attack was part of an unannounced operation by the military to crack down on “terrorists and jihadists” in the restive Sinai peninsula. He added that at least four jihadists were killed in the attack.
“The intelligence apparatus found out that there was a plan by jihadists to target several vital spots in Sinai and to destroy the Al-Salam bridge crossing the Suez canal on the second day of Eid El-Fitr [Friday],” said the source, adding that a state of emergency was declared among forces of the second field army and border guards. In addition, special forces, paratroopers and Apache helicopters were deployed.
“Motion above the bridge was halted until the Egyptian military helicopters attacked the spot, and succeeded in destroying the [jihadists’] rockets,“ he said adding that the rockets destroyed were made in Iran.
On Friday, a loud explosion coming from the area of Ajraa in Egypt's North Sinai was heard at 4:15pm by residents of south Rafah, according to armed forces spokesman Ahmed Ali.
Egypt's official MENA news agency said the explosion destroyed a rocket launcher set up near the border to launch attacks against Israel, and at least five Islamic militants were killed. But it did not elaborate.
The attack was followed by conflicting media reports, some claiming the attack was launched by the Israeli forces in coordination with Egyptian authorities. In response, Ali vehemently denied the claims, requesting media to verify its information before publishing, especially on issues of national security.
The Israeli army spokeswoman declined to comment on the alleged attack.
According to Al-Ahram Arabic news website's source, the denial of the military spokesman came amid strict orders by the armed forces not to reveal any official information until the end of the operation against jihadists.
On Wednesday, Egypt’s army said that the army's crackdown on "terrorism and jihadists" in Sinai from 5 July to 4 August resulted in the apprehension of 227 individuals — with 103 arrested and 124 either killed or injured.
Sinai has suffered a security vacuum since the January 2011 uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime. The situation escalated with the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July. Militants have attacked police and security forces on a daily basis following Morsi's overthrow.