The Missile Attack on El Arish Airport

The Islamic State's Sinai Province assumed responsibility for the December 19 attack on Egypt's El Arish Airport, claiming it had fired a Russian Kornet ATGM at a helicopter

Photo: idfblog

Egypt's army said that a missile hit the airport in El Arish in North Sinai on December 19, 2017, killing an officer and injuring two others. The missile attack has also caused "partial damage" to a helicopter.

The airport was targeted during a visit by Egypt's defense and interior ministers to inspect forces and security in the city. Egypt's defense and interior ministers have returned to Cairo on December 20, 2017, after the visit to North Sinai. The military has published video footage on December 20, 2017, showing the two ministers stepping off a military aircraft.

The Sinai province of Islamic State (Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack the next day. They released a short statement online, saying that it fired a Kornet anti-tank guided missile at a helicopter at the airport. The group has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks against security and army forces in North Sinai in the past three years.

The Sinai province of Islamic State claimed credit in July 2015 for a rocket attack off the Sinai coast that set an Egyptian ship ablaze. The attack was confirmed by the Egyptian military. The type of weapon used to target the ship has not been disclosed, but there is a high probability that it was a Kornet Anti-tank missile that can be used to target naval craft operating close to shore.

The Russian Kornet, an antitank guided missile, was smuggled to Sinai from Libya and has been used for the first time against an Egyptian army position near Rafah in 2012. It has since caused dozens of casualties among armed forces and civilians. It was not the only sophisticated weapon to be smuggled from Libya to ISIS in Sinai. There were also Grad missiles, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, air defense Strela missiles, the Austrian Steyr sniper rifles, the DShK Russian heavy machine guns, and more. All of the above came from Gaddafi’s stockpiles.

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi discussed the latest developments in North Sinai with Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhi and Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar following their inspection of police and army forces in the governorate on December 19, 2017. The two ministers presented a report to the president about the security situation in North Sinai and the procedures taken by the army and police to fight terrorism and ensure stability and security. The head of General Intelligence Khaled Fawzi and the head of Military Intelligence Mohamed Farag Shehata also attended the meeting.

On December 20, 2017, police and military raids in the provinces of North Sinai, Ismailia and Sharqiya killed 14 terrorists and arrested 14 other suspects. A police statement said that six of them were arrested in North Sinai while plotting terrorist activities and "a series of aggressive operations against the state's vital institutions as well as Coptic churches to negatively affect the security and economic conditions in the country."

Summary

The Egyptian military has for several years been fighting an Islamist insurgency based in the North Sinai region. Insurgents have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen. Hundreds of militants have also been killed in extensive campaigns to root out the insurgency.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi ordered the army's chief of staff on November 29, 2017, to restore security and stability in the Sinai Peninsula within three months. "I bear you responsible before all the Egyptian people to restore security and stability in Sinai within three months," el-Sisi spoke directly to Chief of Staff Mohamed Farid Hegazy while delivering a speech aired on the Egyptian state TV. "You and the Interior Ministry are responsible for that," el-Sisi continued, assigning part of the responsibility to the police as well, allowing both to use all kinds of massive force to achieve Sinai's security and stability. President el-Sisi's remarks came less than a week after a terrorist attack against a mosque in North Sinai killed at least 513 Muslim worshippers, including children, and wounded over 120 others.

Later military and police raids in reprisal for the mosque attack left about two dozens of terrorists dead and a similar number of suspects arrested.

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