Egyptian helicopter gunships have fired rockets at armed groups based in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula, causing dozens of casualties, killing at least eight people according to a security official.

At least a further 15 people were injured in the attack.

The security source said the two aircraft on Tuesday surprised gatherings of fighters in three houses in two locations, al-Muqataa and Touma, south of the town of Sheikh Zuweyid near the border with the Gaza Strip.

Attacks on security personnel have surged in Sinai after the toppling of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.

The official said "dozens" of the fighters had been killed and wounded but that fighting was still ongoing.

He did not mention if there were any soldiers on the ground to assess the number of casualties.

A witness said the three houses were destroyed and part of a nearby mosque was damaged.

Also in Sinai, army commandos arrested late on Monday two members of an al Qaeda-linked group, known as the Mujahideen Shura Council, that had in the past fired rockets at Israel, another security official said.

Security forces have a long list of wanted men who are believed to be concentrated along the border area with the Gaza Strip and Israel and in the central Sinai mountains.

The Mujahideen Shura Council claimed several rocket attacks on Israel, the latest on August 13.

Israel said then that its defence system, the Iron Dome, had shot down a rocket launched from Egypt targeting the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

Source: Agencies