Egypt on Wednesday launched air strikes in the Sinai region bordering Israel killing more than 20 people suspected to have been involved in the attack on a checkpoint in which 16 Egyptian border guards were killed on Sunday last, state media reported.
Eye witnesses in Sheikh Zouaid, about ten kilometer from Gaza, which was strafed in the air raid, said they saw two military jets and heard sounds of explosions. Other witnesses in a nearby area said they saw three cars hit.
Reports quoting an Egyptian Army Commander said that 20 suspected terrorists had been killed and three armored vehicles belonging to them destroyed in the air strikes.
The aerial attack triggered clashes between armed men and security forces at several security checkpoints in the Sinai region. Armed militants opened fire on several checkpoints in al-Arish and in the nearby town of Rafah bordering Israel.
Al-Jazeera reported that three Army soldiers, two police officers and one civilian were injured in overnight clashes in the area known to be a stronghold of armed Bedouins who often blow up pipelines transiting Egyptian gas to Israel and Jordan through the Sinai peninsula. A cement factory belonging to the military was also attacked by gunmen, two of them were later arrested.
Lawlessness in the rugged desert region bordering Israel has spread since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising 18 months ago and the political instability that has followed.
A few hours after eruption of the clashes, hundreds of protesters gathered in al-Arish demanding state protection and chanting "God is Great." Security forces closed al-Arish's main highway shortly after the start of the attacks. In reaction to Sunday's killings of the border guards, Egypt began to seal off smuggling tunnels into Gaza, the Qatar-based news channel said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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