Egypt’s army on Sunday said it will halt military operations against Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula, despite the threat from Israel, as the government and the Islamic militant group Hamas battle for supremacy in the region.
Military chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Sunday announced that the army would withdraw from the southern Sinai Peninsula in the face of “threats from the enemy”, while announcing that Egypt’s Joint Operation Room (JOM) will remain in place in the peninsula.
The move came as the military and Islamist militants continue to battle over control of a border strip between Israel and Egypt.
The Sinai Peninsula has been a flashpoint between the two sides since Israel launched an offensive against Islamist fighters in 2014, when the army, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, targeted a military camp in the area and the militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
The fighting has continued to this day with a series of deadly attacks on soldiers, police, civilians and militants in recent weeks.
On Saturday, the army killed three members of the extremist group Ansaru, including its top leader, in a raid in the southern region of Shatila.
The group has vowed to target soldiers, while at least 13 civilians have been killed in the fighting in recent days.
“The military operation in the south will stop at any time.
It is the will of the people and the country,” Sisi said in a televised speech.
Egyptian state TV reported that the military had launched an air campaign against the militants on Saturday in the north and the west of the peninsula, and had also launched a series, including a large-scale air raid on the militant camps in the east of the country.
The military has been conducting air raids against militant bases since the fall of President Mohamed Morsi in 2014.
The country’s top security official, General Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, warned that “the military will not accept” the loss of control of the region to the militant groups.
Sisi, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said in his speech that Egypt would “reform” its military, which is considered the legitimate successor to the military leadership of former President Hosni Mubarak.
The statement by the general came after Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told Al Jazeera on Sunday that he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
“We will discuss the situation in Sinai.
We will discuss all possible options,” Ismail said.