The Union of Sinai Tribes said that in mid-December it led a campaign against militants in areas to the south of Rafah, North Sinai that led to the injury of three of the union’s fighters in an explosive attack.
Two militants belonging to the Province of Sinai, the Islamic State affiliate in the peninsula, were killed in the campaign, while another surrendered and was captured, according to the union and sources close to it who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.
The campaign was not publicly reported by the Armed Forces or by any official authorities.
The union began its campaign with search operations in the area between Ajra, south of Rafah, and Barth, leading to the December 15 arrest of a Province of Sinai militant whose leg had been amputated after an airstrike injury, according to the union statement.
Over the past years, Ajra has proved a major focal point of the Province of Sinai’s activity due to its strategic location as a desert area adjacent to villages in Sheikh Zuwayed and Barth, the latter of which is the headquarters of the Union of Sinai Tribes, and as a corridor to the central Sinai regions.
A source close to the union said that the campaign on Ajra began after a Province of Sinai leader, whom the source described as one of their most dangerous, was spotted in the vicinity of the village.
Union fighters killed two militants who were securing a storage site in Ajra, where the union found sacks filled with snails, which a tribal union source said the militants may have resorted to eating.
Security forces have restricted the movement of Province of Sinai militants, said the source, making it difficult for them to find food. Similar tactics have previously led dozens of fighters and their families to surrender themselves to authorities, the union source said.
Clashes erupted on December 17 and 18 after which the Province of Sinai leader and his group fled to Muqata village, south of Sheikh Zuwayed and adjacent to Rafah, according to the source who also said that the leader’s belongings were found, confirming his identity.
An explosive device detonated in a car belonging to the union of tribes on December 18, wounding three of its fighters. The Province of Sinai later burned the car, declaring its responsibility for the attack a few days later.
In addition to killing two militants and capturing one, the union said it destroyed several of the militant group’s positions and vehicles.
While the Armed Forces spokesperson issued a statement on December 23 summarizing its operations in the peninsula for the first time in five months, the announcement did not refer to any anti-militant operations, whether official or union-led. The statement mainly detailed operations to crack down on drug trafficking, smuggling activity and irregular migration.
Earlier this month, the union of tribes reported that it had killed two militants and captured two more in late November and early December while militants attempted at least two attacks in North Sinai, one in the east and one in the center of the governorate. However, the Armed Forces spokesperson has not published any corroborating information.