Egypt launched its first air attacks in the Sinai Peninsula in nearly four decades in the early hours of today, using helicopters to kill suspected militants close to the border, reports the New York Times. State media puts the toll at 20. The airstrikes came after another assault on at least seven government checkpoints and a military cement factory late last night, and follow Sunday's attack, which killed 16 Egyptian police officers. In a televised statement, the military announced the start of the joint military-police ground operation, backed by warplanes, to "restore stability and regain control" of the area, reports the AP.
With the Muslim Brotherhood's strong ties to Hamas, the violence is further inflaming Egypt's divisions between supporters of the secular, military regime and Islamists. Yesterday, Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi canceled his plans to attend the funeral for the officers killed on Sunday. Prime Minister Hesham Qandil attempted to attend an earlier prayer service, but was chased by shoe-wielding protesters blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for the deaths (Qandil is not a member of the Brotherhood).