Six African migrants trying to reach Israel were killed when a gun battle erupted with smugglers and Egyptian security forces in Sinai on Friday.

According to eyewitnesses, the smugglers had been holding up to 300 African migrants in a building south of the Egyptian side of Rafah, after there had been an argument over the fee for smuggling them to the Israeli border.

At one point, one of the African migrants broke free, snatched an automatic weapon from a Bedouin guard, and released five of his comrades. He then opened fire on the smugglers' vehicles. The migrants took control of additional weapons and munitions, and in the resulting gun battle four were killed and five were wounded. Some of the casualties appear to have been Eritrean citizens.

In the mayhem, some 100 people made their escape and tried to cross the border, but were stopped by Egyptian security personnel, who also opened fired and killed two. A few of the migrants took over a minivan and tried to reach Rafah, reports from Sinai said.

Some of the Africans turned themselves in, while others are reportedly still hiding in the area, waiting for an opportune moment to cross to the Israeli side.

Such confrontations are not uncommon, with many migrants killed either in gun fights with their smugglers or shot down by Egyptian security forces. Migrants who have managed to reach hospitals reported that the smugglers often pressure them to pay more money than originally agreed upon, and in some cases take family members hostage.