Egyptian officials say the military has carried out air strikes on militant targets in the Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 12 fighters in response to an escalation of violence in the area.

The officials said Egyptian helicopters struck the militants late Saturday and early Sunday near the Sinai village of Touma. Witnesses said funerals were held later Sunday for some of those killed.

Islamist fighters and tribesmen have intensified attacks on Egyptian security forces in Sinai since the Egyptian military ousted the country's elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3rd.

Militants have used the peninsula for smuggling and cross-border attacks on Israel for years.

An Egyptian military spokesman denied a militant group's claim that an Israeli drone was responsible for an air strike that killed four of its members on Friday.

Militant group Beit al Moqadess made the claim on a jihadist website Saturday, saying the targeted fighters were preparing to fire rockets into Israel.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon refused to confirm or deny Israel's involvement in the incident. Speaking late Saturday, he said Israel "respects Egyptian sovereignty" and will not allow "rumors or speculations" to harm a peace accord between the two neighbors.

Veteran Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem accused deposed president Morsi of actively protecting terrorists entering Sinai and beginning to prepare to create an alternative army there.

A spokesman for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, Mohamed Baltagi, said recently that "attacks on the army in the Sinai will stop, as soon as ... Morsi is restored to power."