An Egyptian naval vessel has caught fire in the eastern Mediterranean during a clash with fighters affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Sinai Peninsula, the military said. 

Inside Story - Has Sisi's Egypt failed on security?

The patrol boat spotted the fighters from the Sinai Province group on the coast of Rafah on Thursday and engaged them, the military's spokesman said in a statement. The boat went up in flames during an ensuing firefight. 

The military said it suffered no casualties, in the attack, which Sinai Province later claimed on Twitter.

A series of pictures released by the group, showed a missile approaching and striking the vessel causing a large explosion.

A witness in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, just across the border with the Egyptian town of Rafah, said the boat was struck at least three kilometres from the shore.

"We were sitting on the beach and suddenly there was an explosion," witness Ahmed Nofal told the AFP news agency. Other navy boats came to rescue the crew as their vessel spewed a plume of smoke.

Armed campaign

Sinai Province has killed scores of soldiers and policemen in the peninsula in an armed campaign that followed the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

It was not immediately clear how the boat was hit on Thursday, but fighters have started to deploy wire-guided missiles against tanks and armoured vehicles.

The fighters have also carried out attacks west of the Suez Canal, which separates the Sinai from the rest of Egypt.

The army said on Wednesday its troops foiled a suicide car bomb attack on a military post between Cairo and Suez that was claimed by the ISIL affiliate. 

Sinai Province released photos on Twitter appearing to show the attack on the Egyptian vessel [Twitter]

Source: Al Jazeera And AFP