Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi vowed early Monday morning to regain control of the Sinai Peninsula, after terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers on Sunday before attempting to infiltrate into Israel.
Morsi met with military chiefs late Sunday in the wake of the attack and then gave an interview on Egyptian TV, where he said orders had been issued to arrest the perpetrators.
“There is no room for appeasing this treason, this aggression and criminality,” Morsi said. “The [security] forces will take full control of these regions,” he added, referring to Sinai.
Egyptian news outlet Ahram reported that Egyptian troops and helicopters have “laid siege” to Rafah, where the attack took place, in an attempt to apprehend the terrorists behind the attack. The outlet quoted an Egyptian security source.
Before the emergency meeting, Morsi’s office issued a statement offering his condolences to the families of the dead and saying the “cowardly” attack will not go “without a response.”
“Those who carried out this crime will pay dearly,” Morsi’s statement said.
The incident was the latest deadly confrontation on Israel’s border with Egypt and it comes just days after Israel issued a travel warning urging all of its citizens out of Sinai, with the US following suit.
Morsi’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, urged Egyptian authorities to take all necessary measures to “confront this serious challenge to Egyptian sovereignty and to protect Sinai from all armed groups.”
The attack, which took place on the Israel-Egypt-Gaza border, may have been an attempt to kidnap an Israeli soldier, according to IDF officials. The terrorists commandeered at least two armored Egyptian vehicles and attempted to force their way through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
One vehicle was said to have exploded on the Egyptian side of the border crossing. The second vehicle moved toward Israel and the IAF blew up it up. Conflicting reports spoke of three to six terrorists who were killed by Israeli army troops, according to the IDF spokesperson.
Egyptian military sources say there was a third armored vehicle commandeered by the terrorists, but that it was found abandoned some time after the attack, on the Egyptian side of the border.
The IDF and Israeli police continued searching the area near the border overnight, and additional troops were deployed, in case any of the terrorists were still on the loose inside Israel. Israeli residents in the area were told to stay inside their homes.
Searches also continued through the night in Egypt.
Egyptian and Israeli media said Gaza-based Palestinians were involved in the attack. An Egyptian border official said the Rafah terminal between Egypt and Gaza had been closed indefinitely.
A spokesman for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned the attack on Egyptian soldiers and said officials had sealed off all smuggling tunnels on the Strip’s border with Sinai to prevent the perpetrators from leaving Egypt, according to Israel Radio.
The official, Yussuf Rizka, claimed there was no evidence that the attackers came from Gaza. He added that Hamas would cooperate with the Egyptian military regarding the incident.
No Israelis were reported injured in the attack.