JERUSALEM: Three Israeli soldiers and a member of Egypt’s security forces were killed on Saturday in a rare exchange of fire near the border between the two countries, official sources from both sides said.
The Israeli army said an Egyptian assailant shot dead two soldiers “in the early morning... while they secured a military post at the Egyptian border” on Mount Harif, triggering a manhunt in which a third soldier was killed.
An army statement identified the assailant as an Egyptian policeman, saying he was killed by Israeli troops after having been found “in Israeli territory”.
“An investigation is conducted in full cooperation with the Egyptian army,” the statement added.
A fourth soldier, a non-commissioned officer, was lightly wounded and evacuated to hospital, the Israeli army added.
Egyptian security official, three Israeli soldiers killed at border
An Egyptian army spokesman said “a member of the security forces... chased drug smugglers. During the chase, the security agent crossed the security fence (border)” and a fire exchange ensued.
Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel following the Camp David accords of 1978, though relations were not fully normalised.
Their shared border is largely peaceful despite occasional exchanges of fire between drug smugglers and troops.
The Israel army had initially declined to confirm media reports of the first two deaths, while families were notified. The two soldiers, a man and a woman, were “killed by live fire adjacent to the border”, it said in a statement. The army later identified her as Lia Ben Nun, 19.
A barrier runs along the Israel-Egypt border, and an army spokesman claimed Israel was looking into how it was breached.
Hours before the deadly shooting, Israeli soldiers had foiled an attempted drug smuggling at the border, seizing contraband goods estimated at 1.5 million shekels ($399,777), a spokesman said.
There have been several previous incidents along Israel’s border with Egypt.
In 2011, assailants who came from Sinai killed eight Israelis in a triple ambush north of Eilat. Pursuing Israeli forces killed seven attackers and five Egyptian police. A year later an Israeli soldier and three militants who infiltrated from Sinai were killed in a clash along the border.
Similarly, according to the Israeli military, two Israeli soldiers on patrol were wounded in 2014 by unidentified men who fired an anti-tank weapon from the Sinai during an attempted drug-smuggling.
Defence ministers talk
Later, the Egyptian army said Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki offered his condolences to his Israeli counterpart following the shooting incident that left three Israeli soldiers and one Egyptian security officer dead. In a phone call, the ministers discussed taking necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of border shooting incidents, an army statement added.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023