CAIRO - Egypt branded Islamist gunmen who killed 16 police near the Israeli border as "infidel" and promised on Monday to launch a crackdown following the massacre that strained Cairo's ties with both Israel and Palestinians.
An Egyptian official has said "Jihadist elements" crossed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt before leading the assault on a border station. They then stole two armored vehicles and tried to smash their way into Israel, but were killed by Israeli fire.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that eight assailants died in the attack, adding that he hoped the incident would serve as a "wake-up call" to Egypt, which he has long accused of losing its grip in the desert Sinai peninsula.
The bloodshed represented an early diplomatic test for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, an Islamist who took office at the end of June after staunch US ally Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year in a popular uprising.
Egypt's military, which still holds many levers of power in the most populous Arab nation, called the attackers "infidels" and said it had been patient until now in the face of the instability in Sinai.
"But there is a red line and passing it is not acceptable. Egyptians will not wait for long to see a reaction to this event," it said in a statement on its Facebook page.