Egypt military helicopters killed eight militants and wounded 15 others in intensive air strikes on Tuesday in the Sinai Peninsula, where the army has been battling a semi-insurgency, security sources said.
The strikes near the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip were ongoing, the sources said, adding that the target was militants using the area bordering the Palestinian territory as a hideout.
“Eight militants were killed and 15 were wounded when air strikes hit four Islamist positions south of Rafah,” one source told AFP.
The restive region has seen an increase in clashes between militants and security forces since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military on July 3.
A security source told AFP the air operation was the “biggest aerial assault of its kind in Sinai”.
Witnesses said “Apache helicopters” bombed several villages south of Rafah border crossing when the operation began at around 9:00 am (0700 GMT).
They said the helicopters hit several houses where militants had been hiding, and that the attacks had left four people wounded and six houses destroyed.
Witnesses also said that at least four helicopters were being used and they had dropped around 15 bombs, while a security source said the strikes also targeted weapons depots.
Militants have launched near-daily attacks on police and army facilities in Sinai, a region mostly populated by Bedouins who are often in conflict with the central authorities in Cairo.
On August 19, militants killed 25 Egyptian police in an attack on two buses heading towards the town of Rafah.
Egyptian security sources told AFP that two members of an armed Al-Qaeda linked group, The Mujahideen Shura Council, had been arrested in Sinai on Tuesday.
The two were suspected of involvement in the August 19 attack.