Egyptian attack helicopters have launched the nation’s first strikes against the Sinai Peninsula since 1973 today, attacking the village of Tumah and other areas in a salvo that left at least 20 people dead, all of them labeled “terrorists” or “militants” in official reports.
Egypt’s army says the strikes were retaliation for last weekend’s attack on a police station, and declared the operation a “complete success” and a decisive victory over militants in the peninsula.
The weekend attack saw 16 Egyptian police killed along the border with Israel, and the militants were apparently attempting to infiltrate Israel with stolen vehicles. Israel allowed Egypt to increase its military presence in the peninsula after the attack, which is dictated by a long-standing peace treaty between the two.
The military moves into Sinai are seen as a major blow for President Mursi, Egypt’s only elected official since the junta forced parliament to be dissolved and declared itself the nation’s sole legislative body. Mursi’s position has been hurt to such a level that his supporters even speculated the attack was stage explicitly to undermine him.
Mursi has attempted to assert himself since the attack as well, announcing today that he has fired the nation’s intelligence chief. He has also asked junta head Field Marshall Tantawi to replace several top police commanders.
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