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CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday the battle against jihadist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula would be a long and hard one, as violence there continues unabated.

Sisi spoke following a meeting with his top brass two days after militants killed more than two dozen people, mostly soldiers, in the latest attacks in the largely lawless North Sinai.

The president, who created a unified military command to respond to the ongoing insurgency, said in remarks broadcast on television that the “battle will be difficult, hard and hellish, and it will be long. “Flanked by his top generals and occasionally raising his voice in anger, Sisi said “we will not abandon the Sinai to anyone”. He also repeated accusations that the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood of deposed president Mohamed Morsi is behind the violence, a claim the group denies.

In early January, Egypt began work on doubling the width of a buffer zone along the border with Gaza to prevent militants infiltrating from the enclave.

Earlier in the day, an official said the court ruled on a complaint from a lawyer that Hamas’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades was directly involved in “terrorist operations” in the Sinai.

He also accused the movement of using tunnels under the common border to smuggle arms used in attacks against the police and army, the official said.

Since Egypt’s military ousted Morsi in 2013, the authorities have themselves accused Hamas of aiding the jihadists.

Published in Dawn February 1st, 2015

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