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Military operation underway in Sinai

The Egyptian government wants to restore law and order in the chaotic Sinai.

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood rallying in support of deposed president Mohamed Morsi clash with police outside in Cairo. Picture: AFP

JERUSALEM - Egypt's armed forces have started a military operation in Sinai to deal with increasing violence in the peninsula dubbed "Desert Storm".

The operation is aimed at rooting out Islamist extremists operating in the area.

All entrances into and exists out of Sinai have been closed.

The army says the initial 48 hour operation is targeted at some five hundred Islamist extremists who are operating within an area of four square kilometres.

Sinai is chaotic; lawlessness reigns and the smuggling of weapons, kidnapping and killings are becoming more and more common.

For months now the situation has been deteriorating. Ever since former president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown security forces have struggled to deal with Sinai.

But now the Egyptian army says its navy and air force is pushing strict control over roads, tunnels and ferries and extremists who operate there will be dealt with severely.

Meanwhile, Egypt remains volatile after the country's first democratic president was overthrown earlier in July. Mohamed Morsi's critics said he failed to revive the country's economy.

The United States urged Arab ally Egypt to pull "back from the brink" after security forces killed dozens of supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday and opened a dangerous new phase in the army's confrontation with his Muslim Brotherhood.

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters were hunkered down in a vigil at a Cairo mosque on Sunday, vowing to stand their ground despite a threat by the authorities to disperse them "soon".

Saturday's bloodshed, following huge rival rallies, plunged the Arab world's most populous country deeper into turmoil following two turbulent years of transition to democracy with the fall of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Adli Mansour was sworn in as interim president until the next elections.