Seven terrorists have been killed by Egyptian soldiers following raids on hideouts in a northern Sinai village. Security officials said military forces had targeted the villages of al-Ghora near El Arish, according to the Egyptian state television.
"Security forces conducted a raid against a small house in the village villages of al-Ghora and there was a firefight," said a witness.
"They killed seven people and left the bodies, then returned with ambulances and a fire truck to take them," he added.
Another witness described the gunmen as "foreign" to the village. He also said the seven men were killed in crossfire when security forces entered the house where they were hiding.
Earlier, the state-owned Nile News television said nine people, seven terrorists and two soldiers, were killed as part of a major operation by the army against terrorism, but a security source told AFP that two soldiers had died in a road accident elsewhere in the peninsula.
The conflicting reports came three days after security forces launched a campaign to uproot the terrorists following the Sinai attack at a checkpoint near Egypt’s border with Israel and Gaza Strip, in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed.
On Sunday, state media have reported that the Egyptian army has moved rocket batteries, another 50 tanks and another 200 troops to the Sinai Peninsula.
In related news, the New York Times reported late Saturday that the United States and Egypt are trying to implement a new security plan to address the worsening situation in the Sinai Peninsula.
Citing unnamed sources, the American daily said that the U.S. Department of Defense talks with the Egyptians include sharing information with the Egyptian army and police in the Sinai. This information includes intercepted conversations by Islamist activists by phone or radio, and aerial images provided by aircraft, drones and satellites, the article said.
We continue to discuss ways of increasing and improving the Egyptians' situational awareness in the Sinai," said a Pentagon representative who was quoted by the Times.
It added the discussions take place with military and intelligence circles, as well as with the the government of the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was on tour in Africa last week, talked on the phone with the new Prime Minister Hisham Kandil and offered assistance, said the daily. The date of the conversation was not revealed.
According to the Times, Egypt receives $1.5 billion a year in military assistance from the United States.
Furthermore, the leader of Egypt's Wafd party, Al-Sayed al-Badawi, said at a press conference Saturday that Egypt does not need Hamas' cooperation, and working with the faction would harm the reconciliation process with Fatah, which dominates the West Bank government.
"The criminal and terrorist attack on Sinai is an Egyptian affair only, and the Egyptian army know how to respond to this crime," al-Badawi stressed.
Al-Badawi added that Wafd "cares about Palestinians’ unity and state. Therefore, any treaties or agreements with Hamas will entrench their authority and support them in fighting the legitimate authority in Ramallah."