The Egyptian army denied on Friday a report by the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper that a state of emergency was declared in South Sinai and Suez provinces.
The spokesman said the army in the Sinai Peninsula was “on alert.” Al-Ahram had reported that raised alert levels were in response to an overnight attack by Islamist gunmen on an airport in the North Sinai town of el-Arish.
The decision comes hours after suspected Islamic militants attacked four sites in northern Sinai, targeting two military checkpoints, a police station and el-Arish airport, where military aircraft are stationed.
A report by Al Ahram newspaper quoted the commander of the Third Field Army Osama Asakar saying that the “state of readiness” had been raised to its highest level in the two provinces due to the attack.
The head of the Suez Canal Authority said Egypt’s ports and its strategic waterway were operating normally with no disruption to cargo traffic.
“The movement of ships was not affected by the Sinai attacks,” Mohab Mameesh said. He said 48 ships had passed through the canal on Friday.
Another shipping source also told Reuters that the “ports are open and operating normally.”
“Nothing has been affected at Alexandria, Damietta, Red Sea ports and the Suezcanal for now.”
“Everything is normal in the Suez canal ... Suez itself is secure, and there is no effect on Port Said, Suez, Ismailia or the east bank of the canal. All have huge troop deployments that have not been seen for a long time. Transit through the canal is also unaffected,” the source added.
The attack, the latest of a string of security incidents in the lawless region, came two days after the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi. It was not clear if the attacks were coordinated and in reaction to his removal.
Some Islamist elements have pledged to fight the military’s move and announced the formation of a “war council.”
The military and security forces responded to the attacks. One soldier was killed and three were wounded.
Gen. Sami el-Metwali said Rafah passage was shut down on Friday. He didn’t say when it would be reopened. Some 200 Palestinians were turned back to the Gaza Strip after the order.
(With AP and Reuters)