CAIRO – Facing his first major security emergency, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has vowed to avenge the killing of 16 troops in an attack by a Jihadist group on borders with Israel.
"Those responsible for this crime will be hunted down and arrested," Morsi said in a TV speech in the early hours of Monday, August 6 cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"Everybody will see that the Egyptian military and police forces can get these criminals wherever they are," he said.
"These criminal, these attackers do not belong among us."
Sixteen border guards were killed in an attack on their checkpoint in Rafah in north Sinai while they were having their Ramadan iftar on Sunday.
Gunmen in Bedouin attire drove up to the checkpoint and opened fire, Egyptian officials said.
A security official said another seven troops were wounded in the attack.
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that the incident had taken place in Karam Abu Salem border area.
"A few of the people who manned the vehicles started running away. We targeted them," she said.
Israel said two armored vehicles were seized by the gunmen, one of which exploded by itself and the other of which was destroyed by a helicopter.
"The bodies of the five gunmen have been found by the Israeli army," a military spokesman said Monday, but did not give details.
The Israeli military's top spokesman, Yoav Mordechai, told army radio that Israel had information about the attack.
"We were ready because we had previous information from Shin Bet (security service) and from military intelligence services, which allowed us to thwart a bloody attack."
Late last week, Israel issued one of its frequent warnings to Israelis to leave the Sinai Peninsula.
Initial Egyptian reports blamed jihadists, who infiltrated from inside the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, for the attack.
Egypt's official MENA news agency called the gunmen "jihadist elements" who "infiltrated from Gaza through tunnels in collaboration with jihadist elements in the Al-Mahdiya and Gabal Halal areas" inside Egypt.
They "attacked a border post while the soldiers and officers were taking iftar," it added.
State television and MENA reported that Egypt closed its Rafah frontier crossing with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip "until further notice."
Rafah is the only crossing between Gaza and the outside world that is not under Israeli control.
Earlier on Sunday, before MENA's report, Hamas in Gaza had dismissed the idea that militants from the Palestinian territory may have been involved.
"We condemn this ugly crime in which Egyptian soldiers were killed, and send our condolences to the families of the victims, and to the Egyptian leadership and the Egyptian people," a Hamas statement said.
Attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula have escalated since President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow last year.
There were 14 recent attacks on Sinai's gas-exporting points to Israel.
In July, six people were killed when about 100 armed men, who rode through el-Arish in cars and motorcycles waving flags with Islamic slogans, attacked a police station and engaged in a shootout with policemen and soldiers.
Last year, Israel allowed Egypt to send in more troops to Sinai, which has been mostly demilitarized according to a 1979 peace deal between the two countries.
The Sunday attack spurred renewed calls in Egypt to amend the treaty to allow for more troops in Sinai.
The Sinai Peninsula was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War. But Egypt regained the area under a peace deal with Israel.The military deployment is unprecedented as a 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel limits the number of military troops in Sinai.
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