Egyptian warplanes launch airstrikes in North Sinai
Egyptian air force planes launched strikes on Sunday morning on the province of north Sinai in the east of Egypt, eyewitnesses and tribal leaders told The New Arab's Arabic language service.
The sources said that several raids were carried out south of the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, targeting areas where the "Sinai Province" organization - an affiliate of the Islamic State organization in Egypt - is believed to operate. There was no information on casualties.
Over the past decade, north Sinai has been ravaged by a conflict between insurgents and the Egyptian army. The conflict intensified after current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led a military coup against in 2013, followed by the formation of IS affiliate "Sinai Province" a year later.
The militant group attracted support from local Bedouins, who have historically complained of marginalisation.
Thousands were made homeless by the army’s offensive against villages suspected of hosting IS fighters. Some have recently been allowed to return home by the Egyptian army after seven years of fighting, following what Egyptian authorities consider a relative stabilization of the security situation.
These small-scale returns have kindled hopes for return among thousands of others, who have been forced to flee heavy fighting as well as the heavy-handed counter-insurgency strategy taken by the Egyptian army against the Islamic State.
Access to north Sinai is tightly controlled by the Egyptian army, which maintains a blackout on independent media reporting from the province.
Around 1,000 militants have been killed according to the Egyptian army since the start of the insurgency, and an unknown number of civilians. The"Sinai Province" militant group has been held responsible for the deaths of hundreds of policemen and soldiers, along with civilians.
Human rights groups have accused both the militants and the government of severe human rights violations in the Sinai.
The Egyptian government has also been accused of failing to provide the funds needed to restore the homes and livelihoods that were destroyed by the fighting.