CAIRO — Egyptian officials announced Saturday that their first major military offensive into Sinai since the inauguration of President Mohammed Morsi led to the deaths of 32 "criminals," the destruction of 31 tunnels used for smuggling, and coordination between Israelis and Egyptians.
The news conference at which the announcement was made itself was notable, an apparent effort by the government to be more transparent after months in which the military council that governed after the fall of Hosni Mubarak rarely explained its actions. A month ago, Morsi fired the key members of that council, and on Saturday, armed forces spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali vowed to answer reporters' questions. He even offered an email address, unusual in a nation that has been led historically by an opaque government.
The rise of Islamist groups in the Sinai has become a source of concern for both the Egyptian government and Israel since Mubarak was ousted, but it was a raid last month in which 16 Egyptian troops died that sparked the current Egyptian crackdown.
Ali said that once the military operation ends, the government hopes to invest more than $200 million in a Sinai development project. Sinai residents have long complained that the government in Cairo has done little to improve living conditions there.