JERUSALEM — The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said Monday that a terrorist attack that killed 15 Egyptian soldiers Sunday night should serve as a “wake-up call’’ to the new Egyptian president about the growing danger in the Sinai Peninsula and the border between the two nations.
Masked gunmen attacked an Egyptian army checkpoint around sundown Sunday, as the soldiers were preparing to break their Ramadan fast. An Islamist insurgency has been going on in Sinai for a decade, but the latest attack is among the worst against Egyptian soldiers.
Egypt’s military said Monday that it would hunt down the attackers, calling them enemies of the nation. It suggested they were militants based in the Sinai who were helped by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip.
Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said Monday that the gunmen also seized an armored vehicle and a truck and stormed the fence at the Kerem Shalom, crossing into Israel with the apparent goal of kidnapping an Israeli soldier or civilians.
The men loaded the truck with explosives and blew it up, killing the driver, Leibovich said; Israeli airstrikes killed six or seven more of the attackers, in the armored vehicle and as they fled. Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said Monday that the operation lasted about 15 minutes.
‘‘I think that the risk of a very large terrorist attack was averted,’’ Barak told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, ‘‘and this was a very important operational success in the battle that is raging there and maybe a proper wake-up call for the Egyptians to take matters into their own hands on their side in a stronger manner.’’
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the Sinai attack, in which seven soldiers were wounded, three of them in critical condition, the Egyptian Health Ministry said.
Egyptian state media later reported that one of the gunmen had been killed and another had been arrested. Officials said the Rafah border crossing with Gaza was closed after the attack.
A former deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military, retired Major General Dan Harel, said Egypt either did not want to or could not control the situation.
‘‘There is approval to place more forces than there are today in Sinai,’’ he said in a radio interview, ‘‘and the Egyptians just aren’t doing this because they are not determined enough to defeat the terror.’’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel toured the border area with Barak, praising the military forces and expressing regret over the deaths of the Egyptians.
‘‘It is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in maintaining a quiet border,’’ he said, according to a statement released by his office. ‘‘However, as has been made clear on numerous occasions, when it comes to the security of the citizens of Israel, the state of Israel must and can rely only on itself.’’
In a video released by the Israel Defense Force on Monday, a soldier who participated in the action said his crew spotted the two vehicles and ‘‘caught it before it could get to the communities and harm innocent people.’’
General Tal Russo, head of Israel’s southern command, said in the video that the air force, the armored corps, and infantry all participated in the operation.
“The force acted in every place where the vehicle tried to enter,’’ he said. ‘‘There was a lot of contact until it was destroyed.
‘‘They simply closed in on it, on the main road, and in the end it was destroyed from the air and also from the ground,’’ Russo added. ‘‘Those that fled and shot at us afterward were also destroyed.’’
Gantz, the military chief, said after touring the area Monday that ‘‘a very great tragedy was prevented, a very complex terror attack.’’
‘‘There is a continuing activity, of course, combing of the area and everything connected to it,’’ he said in the video. ‘‘In summing up I can express very great appreciation to the alertness of the force, the alertness of intelligence, the determinations of the force that acted on the ground.’’