EL-ARISH, Egypt – Masked gunmen killed 16 Egyptian soldiers Sunday at a checkpoint along the border with Gaza and Israel, the first such attack on troops — and then the attackers drove off, crashing into Israel, officials said.
Egypt blamed Islamist militants from Gaza and Egypt’s troubled Sinai Peninsula. President Mohammed Morsi said the attackers “will pay dearly.”
The Israeli military said the attack was part of a plot to abduct an Israeli soldier, and two vehicles commandeered by the attackers crashed into Israel, where one blew up.
In a statement, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel’s military and the internal security agency “thwarted an attack that could have injured many. The militants’ attack methods again raise the need for determined Egyptian action to enforce security and prevent terror in the Sinai.”
The attack took place around sunset in the Egyptian border town of Rafah, when the troops were having the traditional meal at the end of the daily fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Egyptian state TV said the attack on the checkpoint was carried out by Islamist militants. The report said 16 troops were killed in the attack coordinated between Palestinians who entered Egypt from Gaza and Egyptians in Sinai.