The Egyptian army has killed two "highly dangerous" extremists and arrested two others in central Sinai, army spokesman Col. Tamer al-Refai announced Thursday (January 4th).
Two hideouts, one four-wheel-drive vehicle and one motorcycle have been destroyed, he said, adding that a cache containing large quantities of narcotic substances also has been seized.
The operation comes as part of an ongoing security campaign to crack down on extremist hideouts in the Sinai peninsula.
Apache helicopters could be seen flying at low altitudes over the past few days to monitor and track the extremists hiding in the area, Bir al-Abed resident Ali Abdullah told Al-Mashareq.
Bir al-Abed was the site of a November 24th massacre that claimed the lives of hundreds of worshippers at the Rawda village mosque.
The Egyptian air force is focusing its efforts on striking a number of known terrorist hideouts, said military expert and retired Egyptian army officer Maj. Gen. Talaat Moussa.
"The air force is shelling Balaa, a [small] border town in Rafah surrounded by farms from all sides, making it difficult for the ground forces to enter it," he told Al-Mashareq.
Strikes cause chaos within ISIS
"The airstrikes have killed most of ISIS's leaders in Sinai, prompting the group to replace its first-rank leaders," he said.
"The main goal behind the intensive security crackdown at this particular time is to undermine ISIS's command centres and prevent them from communicating with the group's elements outside Sinai," Moussa said.
The aim is to prevent them from carrying out any terror attacks they might be planning, he said.
"The expansion of the Sinai Tribal Union after new tribes have joined it has helped with the supply of information to the air force," he said, rendering its airstrikes more precise.
"Tribesmen have been supplying the army with information on the whereabouts of terrorists, their camps and the number of elements in each camp," Moussa said.
They also have helped the army troops evade several ambushes set up by the extremists, he added.
"The successive strikes against ISIS have caused rifts within the group and caused defections in its ranks," he said.
Among the defectors is Abu Mariam al-Rusi, an Egyptian holding Russian nationality, he said, noting that ISIS has executed him.