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‘Nearly stable'
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 15 - 01 - 2015

On Tuesday an army spokesman announced that the body of an officer had been discovered two days after he went missing from the village of Al-Mahdiya, near Sheikh Zoweid. The spokesman said Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis had claimed responsibility for the officer's kidnapping.
The announcement was made as elite anti-terrorist teams launched an offensive against suspected followers of the militant group. Ten alleged members of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis were killed in the operation and dozens of suspects were arrested. Bases believed to have served as transit points for the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis members were also destroyed.
Last week the terrorist organisation killed a Sinai Bedouin whom they accused of cooperating with security forces.
Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly by phone from Al-Arish, Sinai activist Jazi Al-Tarabin said that such murders are increasingly common in Sinai. The offensive against the terrorists, he said, was now in the “combing” phase. “We can say that the security situation is now 95 per cent stable. The measures taken to purge the area of takfiri dens have contributed to this.”
He added, “Some of the remnants of these organisations have escaped to hideouts from where they mount operations to show they still exist and have the ability to target security forces.”
Ahmed Al-Sawerki, a resident of Al-Mahdiya village, told the Weekly that Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis members had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the officer and said they would soon post a video statement online to confirm this. He also reported that a security official had come to the village to receive the corpse of the murdered officer, which was then transferred to Al-Arish Military Hospital.
According to Al-Sawerki, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has been seriously weakened. Many of its leaders have fled the country and it is widely believed that Shadi Al-Maniei, one of the group's emirs, was not killed as earlier reported but is now abroad. Those leaders who do remain are believed to hail from the group's second tier.
In a related development, the evacuation of a strip along the Gaza-Rafah border to create a buffer zone entered its second phase two weeks ago. According to press reports, the local municipal administration has made vehicles available to those people forced to leave their homes.
Numerous complaints were made during the first phase over the lack of adequate notice and the failure to pay compensation to evacuees. A committee has now been set up by the Rafah municipality to pay LE1,500 emergency assistance to each family forced to move, and provide LE500 monthly payments to cover rent.
The buffer zone will be five km long and 0.5 km wide. According to a source in Rafah, the authorities are studying the viability of expanding the width by an extra half km along the entire length of the buffer zone. Much of the additional land is uninhabited.
Meanwhile, Salah Salem, head of the Sinai Doctors' Syndicate and a member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), has announced the creation of a special unit for Sinai tasked with monitoring the human rights situation in the peninsula. The NCHR is about to send a delegation to north Sinai. A second delegation is planned for south Sinai.


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