AL-ARISH, Egypt Aug 12 Unidentified gunmen shot
at an Egyptian security checkpoint in the Sinai region, scene of
an army offensive against Islamist militants, early on Sunday,
Egyptian and international officials said.
But an official for the Sinai international peacekeeping
force, which helps maintain the peace accord between Israel and
Egypt, denied that its own troops had come under fire.
An Egyptian official had said gunmen opened fire on the
peacekeeping troops in the Um Shyhan area of central Sinai,
without causing any injuries, after shooting at a police
checkpoint and clashing with Egyptian security forces.
"We were not fired upon," said Kathleen Riley, Cairo
representative of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO)
which has monitored movements of troops and military equipment
along Egypt's border with Israel since their 1979 peace treaty.
"There was some firing on an Egyptian army checkpoint or
police checkpoint not too far away. We were able to hear the
shots but we had absolutely no attacks upon our staff."
The incident follows the start of an Egyptian operation
targeting Islamist militants in Sinai suspected of killing 16
border guards a week ago.
The government in Cairo has sent armoured vehicles and
hundreds of troops in the biggest build-up in the treaty's
demilitarised zone since Egypt's 1973 war with Israel.
Israel has called upon Egypt to crack down on growing
lawlessness in the Sinai, which has become a hideout for jihadi
groups opposed to Israel.
Israeli officials say they approve of the Egyptian military
operation and the peacekeepers say they are continuing their
work in coordination with the two sides.
Armed assailants have attacked several checkpoints since
last Sunday's attack on the border guards.