Cairo: Three leading figures in the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas were involved in last year’s deadly attack on Egyptian soldiers near the border with Gaza, reported a state-run publication Thursday.

Al Ahram Al Arabi, a weekly magazine published by the state-owned Al Ahram Press House, said the onslaught, which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, had been carried out by Ayman Noufal, a leading member in Al Qassam Battalions, the military wing of Hamas; Mohammad Ebrahim, a leading member of Hamas; and Raad Al Attar, an engineer who orchestrated the abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The attack, the deadliest against the Egyptian army in decades, were mounted in August allegedly to avenge the army’s destruction of many illegally built tunnels between Gaza and the Egyptian border town of Rafah, according to the magazine.

The publication’s editor Ashraf Badr was quoted by Al Ahram newspaper as saying he had verified the information from intelligence officials whom he did not name.

Hamas condemned the accusation as part of what it called a campaign to “distort Palestinian resistance”. “This claim sorrowfully aims at harming the historical ties between the Palestinian and Egyptian peoples and will only benefit Israeli occupation,” said Sami Abu Zahri, a spokesman for Hamas.

There was no immediate comment from either the Egyptian army or President Mohammad Mursi whose Muslim Brotherhood has strong links with Hamas.

The Egyptian army has recently stepped up a campaign to destroy the Gaza-Rafah tunnels, allegedly used in smuggling goods and arms into the impoverished Palestinian enclave.

Gaza, ruled by Hamas, has been under Israel’s blockade since 2006. Late last year, Mursi brokered a US-blessed ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.