A three-month state of emergency and curfew was declared Saturday across most of North Sinai, following an attack on security forces Friday that left at least 31 dead.
Authorities declared a three-day period of national mourning for the fallen troops, and closed the Rafah border crossing to the Gaza Strip indefinitely.
On Friday night, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued Presidential Decree No. 366 (2014), which stipulates that large swathes of North Sinai (including Arish and Sheikh Zuwayed) be placed under a three-month state of emergency, along with a curfew from 5 pm to 7 am each day, until further notice. Violations of the curfew are punishable by imprisonment.
While it has been described as the bloodiest attack on security forces since the military-led takeover of power on July 3 last year, the official death toll from the two, separate attacks remains unconfirmed by the Ministry of Defense.
On Saturday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper issued conflicting figures regarding casualties from the targeted explosion at the Karm al-Qawadees checkpoint in the town of Sheikh Zuwayed — Listing up to 30 deaths in this attack, and a further two or three in a subsequent attack on troops in Arish.
Al-Ahram also reported that a low-ranking police officer in Arish suffered injuries to his legs on Saturday morning, after unidentified assailants opened fire on him.
In a statement to the newspaper, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said, “The state will take strict measures to confront this dirty war,” adding, “lowly acts of terrorism will not keep us from realizing our political roadmap.”
Authorities also decreed the indefinite closure of the Rafah border crossing, the only legal access point into or out of Egypt from the Gaza Strip, as of Saturday. The exact reasoning behind this closure was not explained by Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or other state officials.
The Palestinian Maan News Agency, citing unnamed security sources, reported that the closure might just be for 48 hours, although it could be extended.
Maan alleged that Egyptian security officials accused the Islamic State of training jihadis in Sinai to use explosives, mines and roadside bombs.
A stream of condemnations of the attacks and statements of solidarity with the Egyptian state were issued from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Arab League and a host of other states on Friday and Saturday.
A communiqué from the US State Department pledged America’s support for the Egyptian government in its counter-terrorism efforts, and mentioned “the strategic partnership between the two countries.”
A statement issued by the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said, “We stand with the Egyptian government in their fight against terrorism. There can never be a justification for such action,” adding that the UK pledges “support to the Egyptian government in their fight against terrorism.”
A host of local political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups also issued statements of condolences for the fallen soldiers.
During his meetings with the National Defense Council, Sisi declared he would avenge the lives of the troops killed in North Sinai.