By Ria Novosti
The Egyptian military has launched an assault against suspected Islamist militants after they attacked security checkpoints along the Egyptian-Israeli border. At least 20 people have reportedly been killed.
This comes just two days after 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed in similar attack.
Egyptian security officials told AP that attack helicopters had fired missiles just hours after three security checkpoints were attacked by suspected militants around North Sinai’s town of Sheikh Zuwaid, 10 kilometers from the Gaza strip.
Egyptian troops entered the village of al-Toumah, nearby Sheikh Zuwaid after they were informed of Islamist insurgent activity there, a military commander told Reuters.
“We have succeeded in entering al-Toumah village, killed 20 terrorists and destroyed three armored cars belonging to terrorists. Operations are still ongoing,” the commander said to Reuters.
The exchange of fire started in the late hours of Tuesday and lasted until Wednesday morning.
According to Ahram, the state news website, 20 suspected militants were killed in the attacks. Six people were wounded, officials say. Among them were a military officer, two soldiers, two policemen and a civilian whose condition is critical.
The attackers also targeted a cement production company in Sinai, Al Jazeera reports.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has sacked the intelligence chief and the governor of North Sinai following the killing of over a dozen Egyptian security personnel by militants.
Violence has escalated dramatically in the country since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak last year. It is also moving closer to the Israeli-Egyptian border. People in the affected areas are becoming concerned that if the violence spreads further, the conflict may have regional implications.
Security officials said this was the first time a missile strike has been used in the Sinai area since the 1973 war with Israel to take back the peninsular. The territory was returned to Egypt in 1979 with the signing of a peace treaty with Israel.
The latest developments in the Sinai Peninsula now raise fears that Tel Aviv may choose to act unilaterally if it feels threatened.