At least 15 Egyptian soldiers were killed, on Sunday evening, while several others were wounded, when gunmen attacked an Egyptian military base in Sinai. The Israeli army also killed seven gunmen, allegedly Palestinian, who reportedly hijacked a military vehicle from the Egyptian military base and attempted to drive through the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Israeli crossing.The attack took place near border marker number 6, south of the Rafah and Karem Abu Salem crossings.

Eyewitnesses reported that the gunmen infiltrated into the Egyptian military base in the evening as the Egyptian soldiers had just started eating following a long day of fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Egyptian military sources told the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that “a major terrorist attack targeted an Egyptian military base near the Kerem Shalom Crossing”, and that “Jihadist groups, driving vehicles equipped with automatic weapons and RPG launchers, attacked the base, and managed to kidnap a number of Egyptian soldiers”, according to the sources.

Meanwhile, Israeli military sources claimed that the army “foiled an attempted attack by Palestinian gunmen who tried to infiltrate into Israel through the Kerem Shalom Crossing using the Egyptian military vehicles that were hijacked during the attack against the Egyptian military base”.

The sources added that four gunmen were killed when their hijacked armored vehicle exploded, while three more gunmen were killed when an missile fired from an Israeli fighter jet struck their vehicle. The army sealed the area and scanned it searching for gunmen.

The army further instructed Israeli residents of nearby areas to refrain from leaving their homes, and to follow all instructions by the military.

The Israeli military deployed dozens of military vehicles and soldiers along the border area with Egypt and Gaza, while military helicopters conducted several flights searching for potential infiltrators.

An Israeli military spokesperson denied reports claiming that the gunmen managed to abduct Israeli soldiers, and claimed that the gunmen who attacked the Israeli military base “infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip”.

Furthermore, Israel decided to close the Kerem Shalom Crossing until further notice, while Egypt decided to close the Rafah Border Terminal, also until further notice.

Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli military vehicles, based east of the crossing, fired at least ten shells into areas in southern Gaza, and also fired dozens of flares around the crossing; no injuries were reported.

Furthermore, Lieutenant Safwat az-Zayyat of the Egyptian army, denied Israeli reports claiming that the attack was carried out by jihadist groups, and said that “the escalation on the border was planned by Israel in order to cause rift between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and to destabilize the situation in Egypt”.

Egyptian President, Mohammad Morsi, called for an urgent meeting with the Egyptian Military Council, while Egypt’s Tourism Minister, Hisham Za’zou’, said that this attack was carried out to sabotage the Egyptian efforts to restore tourism in the country.

In a live statement after midnight, Morsi stated that the Egyptian army and the security forces have been instructed to pursue and apprehend the assailants, wherever they are, and said that “the killers, and anyone who helped them, will pay a heavy price for their crime”.

The al-Jazeera news agency, based in Qatar, stated that Morsi also held a meeting with the Egyptian Defense Minister, General Mohammad Tantawi, along with leaders of the Egyptian Military Council.

Also, an Egyptian security source said that the Egyptian army has the bodies of three assailants who were killed while trying to infiltrate into the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip denounced the attack against the Egyptian military base describing it as an “ugly and cowardly criminal attack”. It also sent its condolences to the families of the slain soldiers, the Egyptian leadership and the Egyptian people.

Several other Palestinian factions also strongly denounced the attack and said that it “only serves the Israeli interests”.

On his Facebook page, Mousa Abu Marzouq, deputy head of the Political Bureau of the Hamas movement, strongly denounced the attack against the Egyptian military base, and hinted that Israel is behind the attack, also hinting that the Israeli military killed the assailants to cover any tracks of Israeli involvement.

Abu Marzouq further stated that “this attack was carried out shortly after Israel started talking about the lack of security in Sinai, and after it issued warnings about a planned attack along the border area, in addition to instructing its residents not to head to Egypt.

Two days ago, Israel instructed all Israeli tourists to leave Sinai after receiving intelligence information about attacks “planned by Jihadist groups operating in Sinai”.