Sinai peacekeepers deny their forces were attacked
CAIRO -- The international peacekeeping force long assigned to the Sinai peninsula to oversee the decades-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt denied reports Sunday that its troops had been fired on by armed men.
"There was no attack and no attempted attack on our peacekeeping troops. That entire report was inaccurate," said Kathleen Riley, representative of the Multinational Forces and Observers' director-general in Cairo.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo also denied reports of an attack on its official Twitter page.
The German Press Agency reported Sunday that security forces killed five assailants and injured six others after the perpetrators attacked peacekeeping troops in the early morning. The report quoted a security source who claimed that the dead and injured were transferred to a military hospital in the Egyptian city of El Arish, near the Gaza Strip.
The Multinational Forces and Observers was created in the aftermath of the 1978 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that eventually returned the Sinai to Egyptian control. The force involves troops from a dozen nations, including the United States.
Egyptian authorities sent hundreds of troops and armored vehicles into the northern Sinai on Wednesday to hunt for militants after 16 border patrol officers were killed two days before by unknown assailants who stole military vehicles and attempted to breach the nearby border with Israel. That attack was stopped by Israeli forces and warplanes.
Egypt's president called the attack "traitorous” and vowed it would not go without a response. Egyptian forces later announced that they had killed 20 militants and would continue their raids in Sinai.
Adding to the perplexity surrounding the military operation, several residents of El Arish claimed they saw no damage after Wednesday's reported raid.
“There were no bodies found or transferred to local hospitals,” Ahmed Sallam, a tribal leader told The Times after visiting the site of the offensive.
“The military fired in an unknown location in the desert," Sallam said. "It seems that the media are reporting this to appease the people over the 16 soldiers who were killed.”
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Photo: Egyptian soldiers patrol in the northern Sinai on Sunday. Credit: EPA