JERUSALEM, Israel -- For the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Egyptian helicopter gunships fired on Islamic terror cells in Sinai near the Israeli border early Wednesday, killing about 20 suspected terrorists.
The military assault comes against the backdrop of a weekend attack reportedly by global jihadi terrorists on an Egyptian army base in the Sinai. The terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers as they were sitting down to break the Ramadan fast.
On Tuesday -- hours after insurgents opened fire at three security checkpoints east of el-Arish in northern Sinai, wounding an army officer, two soldiers, two policemen and a civilian -- the gunships targeted the village of Toumah near the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
"We have succeeded in entering al-Toumah village, killed 20 terrorists and destroyed three armored cars belonging to terrorists," an Egyptian army officer told Reuters. "Operations are still ongoing."
The army carried out separate airstrikes in Sheikh Zuwayed east of el-Arish, Egyptian security personnel said.
A spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry told CBN News there is good coordination between the Israeli and Egyptian armies.
"It's a tough situation in Sinai right now," he said. "But there's a very closely coordinated dialogue between the Israeli army and the Egyptian army."
He cited the increased troop presence in the Sinai, which has been closely coordinated with Israel, as an example.
Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi admitted Tuesday they had not heeded Israel's warnings of the pending attack because no one believed Muslims would carry out an attack like this during Ramadan, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported.
"Yes, we had detailed information about the attack," Muwafi said.
"But we never imagined that a Muslim would kill a Muslim on the hour of breaking the fast in Ramadan," he said after meeting with President Mohammed Morsi.
Following the attack at the army base, the terrorists, most strapped with explosive belts, breached the border in a stolen armored vehicle. Before they could carry out their deadly mission, they were stopped by an IDF air strike and tank fire.
Afterward, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip and began sealing smuggling tunnels on the Egyptian side.
A Reuters reporter in Rafah saw heavy equipment on the Egyptian side of the tunnels, which Hamas built and used to smuggle a stunning variety of weaponry into Gaza after it took control of the area in June 2007.
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk called the Egyptian crackdown along the border with Gaza "collective punishment," saying it was "a move in the wrong direction," the Times of Israel reported.