CAIRO, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Egypt closed Rafah crossing with Gaza Strip after a security checkpoint attack left at least 16 soldiers dead and seven others injured.
"Egypt closed Rafah crossing indefinitely" after masked gunmen attacked a checkpoint south of Rafah on Sunday evening, official MENA news agency quoted a security source as saying late Sunday.
Egyptian President Morsi held an urgent meeting with the army leaders, the interior minister and the head of the intelligence service to discuss the situation.
"This cowardly attack will not go unpunished," said a statement released by the Egyptian presidency. "Those who carried out the attack will pay heavily."
Morsi also offered condolences to the families of those who were killed in the attack. Egypt's security forces are still working to identify the attackers.
The attack happened immediately after sunset prayer during Iftar when the troops were suddenly attacked by masked gunmen, a local security source told Xinhua. After exchanging fire, the attackers escaped and the security forces were still pursuing them.
The sources said an armored vehicle was stolen from the scene. The injured are in serious condition.
Security sources have said Jihadists were responsible for the attack and that they used automatic weapons in the attack at the checkpoint at Liberty Square, south of Rafah City.
A security source was quoted by the official MENA news agency as saying that the attackers tried to flee the scene with two vehicles to the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the attackers hijacked two vehicles and headed towards the Israeli territory near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch from the IDF spokesmen unit told Xinhua that one vehicle exploded while crossing the border and the other was shot down by the Israeli air force.
Since the turmoil early last year, the security situation in Sinai has deteriorated. Hardline Islamists belonging to Jihad movements attacked police stations while local Bedouins committed several kidnappings of foreign tourists. The pipeline which exported natural gas to Israel and Jordan was also attacked more than ten times.
In late July 2011, dozens of armed men attacked a police station in Arish, capital of North Sinai, leaving six policemen dead and more than ten injured.