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18 Egyptian policemen reportedly killed in Sinai ambush

Sept. 11, 2017 9:31 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 11, 2017 9:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- At least 18 members of the Egyptian police forces were reportedly killed and several more were injured on Monday in ambush on a police convoy in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Reuters news agency said that the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which Egyptian security sources said occurred in the al-Arish district.

An improvised explosive device reportedly destroyed three armored vehicles and a signal-jamming vehicle, with the attack devolving into a gunfight in which militants also opened fire on ambulance workers, injuring four.

Monday’s attack was the deadliest against Egyptian security forces since July, when Islamic State fighters reportedly attacked a remote army outpost in the border town of Rafah, killing 23 soldiers -- the deadliest attacks in two years.

Fighting between the Egyptian army and the Sinai Province, the local affiliate of the Islamic State, has escalated since Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi took power from Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, which has since left hundreds killed, including civilians, security forces, and alleged militants.

Over the past several months, at least four deadly attacks have also targeted Egypt's Christian minority, prompting army al-Sisi to declare a state of emergency in the country.

Al-Sisi has come under attack over his violent suppression of Muslim Brotherhood members following his rise to power, which the Egyptian president has argued is necessary to deter future attacks in the Sinai and across Egypt.

Amid the fighting, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented possible extrajudicial execution by Egyptian forces who allegedly staged a counterterrorism raid to cover up the killings.

In the wake of July’s attack the Hamas-run Interior Ministry said it was cooperating with Egypt in reinforcing security measures at Gaza’s southern border with Sinai, amid a growing commitment by the Palestinian faction to strengthen ties with Egypt.

Egypt has strictly enforced the decade-long Israeli blockade of Gaza and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants, which Egypt has accused Hamas of supporting. Hamas has consistently denied such allegations.

Hamas officials have held a number of meetings and implemented a series of measures in recent months centered on improving relations between the group and Egypt, by increasing cross border security, which included the construction of the 100-meter-wide military buffer zone.

After arriving in Cairo on Saturday, a Hamas delegation lead by the leader of its politburo Ismail Haniyeh met with senior Egyptian security officials on Monday.
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