Egyptian Army helicopters have launched a fresh assault on armed groups in the Sinai region, as the military confirmed that a Friday air raid that killed four fighters was carried out by one of its planes.
The armed group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had earlier said Israeli drones were behind the Friday attack. It accused the Egyptian army of coordinating the attack with the Israelis. Egypt and Israel have cooperated in tackling armed groups in Sinai in the past.
In the Saturday assault, there were unconfirmed reports of casualties. An Apache helicopter reportedly hit areas south of Sheikh Zuwaid in north Sinai, according to Egyptian state media.
A witness told Al Jazeera that the armed fighters responded by firing towards the helicopters.
On Saturday, a funeral was held for the fighters who were killed the previous day, with the bodies of the four driven through several border towns in Sinai.
Dozens of men on pick-up trucks flying their black flag paraded through the towns, in an act of defiance to the army, witnesses said.
"Our heroes became martyrs during their jihadi duties against the Jews in a rocket attack on occupied lands," Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said on its website.
Hours later, Egyptian military helicopters targeted fighters during the Saturday assault near the village of Touma in north Sinai, according to witnesses.
Colonel Ahmed Aly, the military spokesman, said in a statement that the military "dealt with a group of terrorists" who had been under surveillance. The statement also said that the individuals had been involved in past attacks in the peninsula.
Meanwhile, unidentified men fired at a police station in the coastal town of Al Arish without casualties on either side.
Fighters based mainly in the northern Sinai near Israel's border have escalated attacks on security forces and other targets since July 3, when the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi and installed a new government in Cairo.
The Egyptian army said on Wednesday it had killed 60 fighters in the Sinai Peninsula in the month since Morsi was deposed as president.
But the army has been reluctant to confront the fighters inside towns in order not to provoke the tight-knit tribes, military sources said.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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