Egyptian military helicopters launched air raids on suspected Islamic militants in Sinai near the Israeli border on Wednesday, killing more than 20 in Touma village. The aerial attacks were in response to the attack by gunmen on the Egyptian border police station on Sunday which killed 16 guards.
The strikes were a part of the Egyptian effort to retake control over the lawless Sinai Peninsula, which Israel returned to Egypt under the 1979 peace treaty by which the latter agreed to leave the area demilitarized. The aerial bombings, which hit the town of Sheikh Zuwaid 10 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, closely followed overnight clashes Tuesday between militants and security forces at several checkpoints in the north of Sinai.
Witnesses in Sheikh Zuwaid told Reuters they saw two military planes fly over the area and heard explosions. Some people near the town said they saw three cars bombed.
Egyptian forces targeted Touma village, close to Sheikh Zuwaid after receiving information that militants were staying there, Reuters reported quoting a military commander.
"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.
Israel said Egypt's military action was a necessary response to check the growing number of Islamic militants in Sinai.
Israeli defense official on Monday voiced their willingness to consider any Egyptian request to deploy additional military forces in the Sinai in an effort to retake control of the peninsula from the clutches of the Jihadists, the Jerusalem Post reported.
"The armed forces have been careful in the past months and during the events of the revolution not to shed Egyptian blood," the Egyptian military said in a statement. "But the group that staged this attack is considered by the armed forces as enemies of the nation who must be dealt with by force."
"There is a red line and passing it is not acceptable. Egyptians will not wait for long to see a reaction to this event," the statement said.
Despite the cooperative stance between the governments, Muslim Brotherhood said Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, was responsible for Sunday's attack which was an attempt to abort the Egyptian uprising that toppled the longstanding Hosni Mubarak regime.
"This crime can be attributed to the Mossad, which has been seeking to abort the revolution since its inception and the proof of this is that it gave instructions to its zionist citizens in Sinai to depart immediately a few days ago," the Brotherhood said in its website, acording to reports.
Israel dismissed the allegation as "nonsense." "Even the person who says this when he looks at himself in the mirror does not believe the nonsense he is uttering," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
The Hamas government and some Palestinian groups have also hinted at Israel's involvement in the attack which was allegedly aimed at developing friction between the Palestinians and the new Egyptian government.
A Hamas government spokesperson said the attack was Israel's "attempt to tamper with Egyptian security and drive a wedge between the Egyptians and the residents of the Gaza Strip."
Hamas officials maintained that none of the insurgents were from Gaza, but didn't say who they thought was responsible for the attack.