An Egyptian military helicopter briefly crossed into Israeli-controlled airspace over the Gaza Strip on Friday, in a possible sign of increased security jitters a little over a week after Egypt's army toppled President Mohamed Morsi.
Security sources in Egypt and Israel both described the flyover as a navigational error, but it came shortly after militants killed an Egyptian policeman and wounded a second in an attack on checkpoints in the lawless Sinai Peninsula across the border from the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
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Separately, Egyptian authorities arrested three Palestinian gunmen on Friday during "an attempt to attack vital sites in Sinai", Egyptian state media reported.
"The helicopter mistakenly crossed into Gazan airspace and immediately returned to Egypt," the Israeli security source said. Witnesses in Gaza said it stayed on their side of the border for about 10 minutes before returning.
The militant Palestinian group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, declined comment on the helicopter incident. Hamas denies Egyptian accusations that it has an armed presence in Sinai.
Militants have staged almost daily attacks on security checkpoints in Sinai since the army's overthrow of the Islamist Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader. Officials say Morsi is still being held at a military compound in Cairo.
Egyptian military helicopters were also seen dropping flyers on a pro-Morsi rally in Al-Arish town in northern Sinai urging them to denounce violence and to not drive cars without valid number plates, witnesses said.
Tens of thousands of pro-Morsi supporters also staged protests in different parts in Cairo on Friday.
US calls for Morsi's release
US calls for Morsi's release
Also Friday, the US joined Germany in calling for the release of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States agreed with the German Foreign Ministry, which on Friday called for an "end to all restrictive measures considering Morsi."
Morsi was ousted on July 3 by the military following a wave of protests calling on him to step down. The Islamist leader has been kept at an undisclosed Defense Ministry facility since then, but no formal charges have been filed.
Psaki did not elaborate on why the US was calling for his release. She noted that the US had expressed concerns all along about politically motivated, arbitrary arrests of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.
Speaking at her daily briefing, Psaki also said she could confirm that US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson has met Egypt's interim president, who was appointed by the military.
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