Egypt vows to hunt down gunmen in deadly border raid

Military sweep ordered after militants kill 16 troops, stealing army vehicles to get into Israel

Egypt said it had deployed at least two helicopter gunships in northern Sinai to demonstrate its determination to hunt down the Islamist militants it believes killed 16 of its soldiers during a cross-border attack on Israel.

But it was unclear last night whether the aircraft heading for the coastal town of El-Arish – ahead of a military sweep of the area – would satisfy Israeli concerns that Egypt was not doing enough to contain the surge of violence in the Sinai Peninsula since deposed President Hosni Mubarak's fall last year.

On Sunday, in an operation described as "complex and highly sophisticated" by Israeli experts, the masked militants killed the 16 Egyptian soldiers at sundown as they began to break the Ramadan fast, then seized a pick-up truck and an armoured personnel carrier at the checkpoint. The gunmen, said to have been carrying explosives, sub-machine-guns and grenades, then drove towards the border. They blew up the truck next to the border fence before driving the armoured vehicle through the hole left by the explosion, reportedly getting into Israel. The Israeli military said it had received intelligence about an imminent raid and launched an air strike on the vehicle to avert an attack on Israeli communities in the area. Eight of the militants – said to be "global" jihadists significantly more extreme than the main Palestinian factions based in neighbouring Gaza – were then killed by Israeli forces in a 15-minute operation, which also included tanks and artillery. It was not immediately clear how specific Israel's intelligence was or whether it was also available to the Egyptian authorities.

Calling on Egypt to do more to prevent attacks in Sinai, Ehud Barak, Israel's Defence Minister, told a parliamentary committee yesterday: "We hope this will be a fitting wake up call for the Egyptians to take things in hand on their side more forcefully."

Visiting the scene, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that while Egypt and Israel had a common interest in maintaining a "quiet" border, "when talking about the security of Israeli citizens, Israel must and will rely only on itself".

The killing of the soldiers at a border checkpoint poses a serious security challenge for Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, who ordered three days of mourning and told Egyptian state television after the incident that "this treason, this aggression and criminality cannot be appeased. Troops will totally control Sinai".

But then in a highly contradictory move, apparently intended for internal consumption, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood posted a claim on its website that the attack "can be attributed to Mossad [the Israeli foreign intelligence agency]".

While Egypt swiftly closed the crossing with Gaza, it was unclear whether the suspected Sinai Bedouin militants were augmented by others from Gaza, where extreme Salafist and other militants not linked to the main factions have been known to operate.

However, Hamas denounced "this awful crime".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker