The Defense Ministry ordered shut Israel’s border crossing into the Gaza Strip and another into Egypt on Wednesday as reports of ongoing terror attacks that killed dozens of Egyptian soldiers painted a grim picture of bloody confusion in the Sinai Peninsula.
Gates at the Kerem Shalom crossing were closed, cutting off the main conduit for goods transferred from Israel to Gaza by hundreds of trucks every day.
In addition, the Nitzana border crossing, used by commercial traffic moving between Israel and Egypt via Sinai, was also closed.
The Taba border crossing, used by pedestrian travelers visiting Egypt in the less-restive southern Sinai peninsula, was still open during the early afternoon.
The closing came hours after militants loyal to the Islamic State group attacked several Egyptian army checkpoints in the northern Sinai near the town of Sheikh Zuweid killing at least 30 soldiers, with at least 40 other soldiers injured according to an Egyptian security officials.
Egypt’s military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir, said fighting was still underway in the area between the armed forces and the militants.
Samir’s statement put the number of soldiers killed so far at 10, but the conflicting numbers could not immediately be reconciled in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
A reporter for Sky news Arabic put the Egyptian army death toll as high as 60.
Militants in northern Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, have battled security forces for years but stepped up their attacks following the July 2013 military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after days of mass street protests against his rule.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, then the nation’s army chief, led the ouster and went to become Egypt’s leader, winning a landslide election a year ago.
Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has waged a crackdown that has led to thousands of arrests, mass convictions and death sentences. Morsi is among those condemned to die, but has a potentially lengthy appeal process ahead of him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.