Militants kill 5 police in complex attack in Egypt’s Sinai

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Updated 18 July 2017

Militants kill 5 police in complex attack in Egypt’s Sinai

EL-ARISH, Egypt: Islamic militants launched a series of attacks against Egyptian police in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Monday, killing five of them and wounding another 11, security officials said.

They say the militants opened fire on an armored vehicle before setting it ablaze in the city of El-Arish. When reinforcements arrived, the militants set off a roadside bomb. The two attacks killed a total of five policemen and wounded another five, the officials said. Another roadside bomb struck a third armored vehicle near the airport south of the city, wounding six police.

Earlier in the day, Egyptian F-16 fighter jets struck gatherings of suspected militants in different areas across northern Sinai, killing 30, officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Egypt has been struggling to combat an insurgency in the northern Sinai that has gathered strength since the military overthrew Islamist President Muhammad Mursi in 2013. Most of the attacks, including an assault on an army post earlier this month that killed 23 soldiers, have been claimed by a Daesh affiliate.

On Sunday, Egypt’s military said its fighter jets destroyed 15 all-terrain vehicles carrying weapons, explosives and “criminal elements” after they were detected getting ready to cross the Libyan border into Egypt. Authorities say militants use the porous border with Libya to smuggle fighters and weapons into Egypt.

Refugee returns to Syria must be coordinated with UN: Merkel

Updated 11 min 1 sec ago

Refugee returns to Syria must be coordinated with UN: Merkel

  • Germany's Merkel says Syria must be more secure before refugees return

BEIRUT: The return of Syrian refugees to their homeland can only happen in coordination with the United Nations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday during her two-day visit to Lebanon.
Refugee returns have been a hot-button issue in Lebanon, a small country that has the world’s highest number of refugees per capita.
“We want to contribute to reaching a political solution in Syria, that will allow refugees to return to Syria,” Merkel told reporters on Friday, after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
“I confirmed with officials that returns can only happen in agreement and talks with UN organizations,” she added.
Around 500 refugees left southern Lebanon earlier this year for Syria in a return organized between Lebanese and Syrian authorities, and several thousand have gone back to their homeland from towns around the border in recent years.
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is not involved in the return process and does not yet consider Syria safe enough for refugees to return.
Lebanese officials have been increasingly calling for refugee returns with or without a political solution to Syria’s seven-year-old crisis.
Merkel said it was “understandable” that the large refugee influx had caused tensions in Lebanon but expressed hope they could be resolved.
Her comments come at a rocky time for ties between Lebanon’s government and the UNHCR.
This month, Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil ordered a halt to new residency permits for UNHCR’s foreign staff, accusing them of “intimidating the displaced who wish to return voluntarily.”
The UN has said it hopes Bassil will rescind his decision. The rest of Lebanon’s government has not officially commented.

Hariri, who has been appointed for a third term as Lebanon’s premier, said his country was still seeking refugee returns “as quickly as possible.”
“The only permanent solution for Syrian refugees is their return to Syria in a safe and dignified manner,” he told reporters.
Merkel is also due to meet Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Friday, before flying back to Germany where she faces intense pressure to curb migrant arrivals.

According to the UNHCR, more than 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011 and another 6.6 million are currently internally displaced.
The UN last week said it noted at least 920,000 displacements since the beginning of the year, the highest in that time frame in Syria’s war.
Aid groups have warned that heightened anti-refugee rhetoric and quieting battlefronts in Syria could lead government to force refugees out.