Explosions in Northern Sinai, Egypt denies Israeli involvement

Ahram Online, AP, Saturday 10 Aug 2013

Egyptian army deny Israeli involvement in explosion heard in Ajraa in North Sinai that reportedly killed Islamist militants; Israeli army refuse to comment

Troops in Siani
Tropps in Sinai (Source: Reuters)

A loud explosion coming from the area of Ajraa in Egypt's North Sinai was heard at 4.15pm by residents of south Rafah, Egypt's military spokesperson Ahmed Ali confirmed Friday.

Egypt's official MENA news agency said an 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.

In response to conflicting media statements about the incident, Egyptian army spokesperson Ahmed Ali  stressed that there's no truth to media claims of an Israeli attack on Egyptian soil, nor to claims of Egyptian-Israeli coordination, requesting media to verify its information before publishing, especially on issues of national security. 

He indicated in a statement on his official Facebook page, that the army is still in the process of examining the area around the explosions and is collecting evidence on the situation there. Earlier reports by AP quoted two senior Egyptian officials stating that Israel fired a missile into the northern Sinai Peninsula, killing five suspected Islamic militants and destroying a rocket launcher.

The Israeli army spokeswoman declined to comment on the explosion which took place Friday afternoon in North Sinai near the Egyptian-Israeli border, according to Reuters. 

An earlier Facebook statement by the Egyptian army spokesperson confirmed the two explosions, paralleling personal testimonies from Sinai.

Sinai activist Mostafa Singer indicated on his Facebook account that, according to eye witnesses, an Egyptian Apache helicopter was seen circling the Rafah area before, during and after the explosion, adding that surveillance cameras are spread throughout the Egyptian-Israeli border, diminishing the likelihood of a one-sided attack.

On Thursday, the Israeli military ordered the cancellation of all flights in and out of the Red Sea resort of Eilat for a brief period following a security assessment.

Last month, Israel deployed a battery of its Iron Dome missile defence system near Eilat, which abuts the border with Egypt's troubled Sinai Peninsula, AFP reported.

Media reports at the time said the deployment was related to unrest in Egypt's Sinai, where the army is waging a campaign to drive out militants.

Sixty people have reportedly been killed by militants attacking security checkpoints since Mohamed Morsi's ouster.

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