JERUSALEM, Israel -- There's a burgeoning problem with Islamic terror groups in the Sinai Desert that Egypt's new interim government plans to address.
Israel's southern border with the Egyptian Sinai stretches 144 miles from the resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea north to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
According to media reports, Egypt wants to deploy enough troops and equipment to defeat heavily armed jihadists entrenched in the Sinai.
Thursday morning, an anonymous Egyptian military source said its forces had killed or arrested an estimated 200 gunmen. According to the source, security forces killed 32 Hamas terrorists and arrested 45, Ynet reported.
"Hamas is flaring up the situation in Sinai after Mohammed Morsi's ouster," he said. "We have detected movements of Hamas activists cooperating with jihadists in Sinai. We killed and arrested some of them."
The terror cells infiltrate through smuggling tunnels near the Rafah border crossing.
"They enter Sinai through the tunnels to carry out attacks, along with others, and then return to Gaza through the tunnels," he said. "They take advantage of the surface [terrain] and hide in the mountains."
The situation in Sinai deteriorated since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak two years ago. And in the days following Morsi's ouster, gangs affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, an offshoot of the Brotherhood, infiltrated the Sinai to join other Islamic terror groups in the fight against the Egyptian military.
According to one P.A. security official, Morsi's downfall created a vacuum of sorts for the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas is facing its most difficult period since it has lost many important allies in the region and especially Mohammed Morsi," the official told Israel Radio.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Egypt's military spokesman reported an assassination attempt on Gen. Ahmed Wasfy, commander of the Second Field Army, near Sheikh Zuwaid in the northern Sinai. The general and the convoy guarding him escaped unharmed, but a young girl was killed in the crossfire.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon says the Israeli and Egyptian militaries continue to have a good working relationship though it deteriorated somewhat during Morsi's one-year term.