A 30-member parliamentary delegation visited Egypt's governorate of North Sinai on Wednesday and Thursday to review the security situation there.
The delegation, including members of parliament's Defence and National Security Committee and its head Kamal Amer, met with leading officers of the Egyptian Third Field army in Sinai and we're updated on security conditions in North Sinai and the fight against the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated terrorist group, known as Ansar Beit El-Maqdis (ABM).
Amer, a former chief of military intelligence, told reporters Thursday that plans for this parliamentary visit were prepared a long time ago.
"We wanted to make a field visit in the governorate and take note of the progress of army operations against ABM," said Amer, adding that "it was important for parliament's defence and national security committee to assess the security situation in North Sinai, particularly after the launch of the counter-terrorism Comprehensive Operation Sinai in early 2018."
He stated the visit was not limited to listening to reports from army generals about the security situation in North Sinai and the borders with the Gaza Strip.
"MPs were also keen to visit almost all check points leading to North Sinai and inside the governorate itself, and tour Arish, the capital of North Sinai which had been a main target of terrorist attacks since 2011, killing hundreds of army and police personnel and destoyig natural gas pipelines there," said Amer.
"The committee visited Ahmed Hamdi tunnel leading to North Sinai, most of the check points in North Sinai, parts of middle Sinai, and the Oyoun Moussa tourist destination."
According to Amer, Egypt's Third Field army did a great job uprooting the terrorist group of ABM. "The remnants of this group are currently cornered in less than one per cent of North Sinai's total space. They are taking refuge in mountain hideouts and trying from time to time to launch attacks, but thanks to the great men of the Third field army and their fighting efficiency, this terrorist group lost most of its power and fighting initiatives," said Amer.
He said the visit also reviewed the role of the army in developing Sinai in terms of implementing a number of mega-development projects. "We wanted to make sure that citizens of North Sinai have access to services and supply commodities," said Amer.
Mostafa Kamaleddin Hussein, a member of the committee, told the media that the delegation met with Chief of Staff Major General Khaled Hussein, leader of the Egyptian Third Field army. "We listened to the explanation about the progress of Comprehensive Operation Sinai," said Hussein, adding that "the meeting included most of the senior officers of the Third Field army who were keen to answer the delegation's questions and give many details on the security situation in North Sinai."
Hussein noted that "the defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq and the success of the Libyan army in fighting IS militants in Libya helped in stripping their affiliate in North Sinai of any provisions.
"The arrest of a number of Egyptian IS leaders in Libya, such as Hesham Ashmawi (in May 2019), has also degraded its affiliate ABM in Sinai," said Hussein.
Many believe that Ashmawi in Libya gave much assistance to the ISaffiliate in North Sinai, and that both were mainly involved in the attacks on churches and Christians in Egypt in 2017, for example.
According to Hussein, the parliamentary delegation also got information on the situation of Egypt's borders with Gaza, security in main North Sinai cities, particularly Arish, and how the army and police forces safeguard most vital locations, including schools, hospitals, police stations, and public places.
Ashraf Kamal, deputy head of parliament's defence and national security committee, said the security situation in North Sinai has dramatically improved since February 2018. "The strategy of Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 was based on launching preventive measures against terrorists there, cornering them, and stripping them of any foreign assistance coming by land or sea," said Kamal, adding that "and the result was that they lost a lot in terms of personnel, land and support."
Kamal said the delegation's visit included a meeting with North Sinai's tribes and the ongoing cooperation between them and the army in obliterating terrorists from North Sinai. "At the end of the visit we warmly thanked army personnel who protect Egypt's national security and help in achieving development plans," said Kamal.