The Egyptian government has vowed to launch a ‘money for arms’ initiative to rid the Sinai of weapons and appease local tribal leaders who blame escalating violence in the region on neglect by Cairo.

Speaking to local leaders in Rafah on 20 August, Egyptian Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the country’s all-powerful military was willing to divert £E1bn ($160m) of its own budget to funding the initiative.

“Development is the solution for Sinai and not arms,” he said. “The armed forces are determined to pull arms out of Sinai completely and are ready to pay in return for arms handed in by Bedouins.”

Sisi’s pledge comes at a time of worsening violence in Sinai and a security clampdown being led by the new government of Mohamed Mursi aimed at flushing out militants operating in the region.

On 5 August, armed gunmen killed 15 Egyptian security personnel and hijacked two armoured vehicles in a bid to attack an Israeli border post. Israeli warplanes subsequently destroyed one of the vehicles, killing eight militants.

In the intervening period, the Egyptian military has launched helicopter gunships against militant bases in the Sinai, marking the country’s first use of air power in hostile action since the Arab-Israeli war.