Border clash results in fatalities of 3 Israeli soldiers and 1 Egyptian police officer
An Egyptian security force member and three Israeli soldiers were killed in a rare clash near the border between the two neighbours, according to statements by officials from both sides on Saturday.
The Israeli army said that an Egyptian attacker shot dead two soldiers “early in the morning… while they were securing a military post on the Egyptian border” on Mount Haref near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert.
The discovery of their bodies led to a manhunt, during which the third soldier was killed.
An army statement identified the attacker as an Egyptian policeman, saying that Israeli forces killed him after finding him “in Israeli territory”.
The statement said the investigation was taking place “in full cooperation with the Egyptian army”.
The army added that a fourth Israeli soldier, a non-commissioned officer, sustained minor injuries and was taken to hospital.
An Egyptian army spokesperson said, “A member of the security forces chased… the drug smugglers. During the chase, the security member crossed the (border) security fence, and an exchange of fire occurred.
Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel after the Camp David Accords of 1978, although there continues to be widespread popular opposition toward normalization in Egypt.
Their shared border is mainly peaceful, despite insurrections in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and occasional exchanges of gunfire between drug smugglers and Israeli forces.
The IDF had initially refused to confirm media reports of the first two deaths while informing the families.
It said in a statement that the two soldiers, a man and a woman, were killed by live bullets near the border.
The woman was later identified as 19-year-old Leah Ben Noun.
A wall runs along the Israeli-Egyptian border, and a spokesman for the Israeli army said that Israel is studying how to breach it.
Hours before the fatal shooting, an IDF spokesperson said Israeli soldiers had thwarted a drug smuggling attempt at the border, and seized contraband worth an estimated 1.5 million shekels ($400,000).
The spokesman added that no link has been established between the drug seizure and the attack on the border post.
Several previous incidents occurred along Israel’s border with Egypt.
In 2011, assailants who entered from Sinai killed eight Israelis in a three-way ambush north of Eilat. The pursuing Israeli forces killed seven attackers and five Egyptian policemen.
In 2012, an Israeli soldier and three gunmen who infiltrated from Sinai were killed in a clash along the border.
In 2014, two Israeli soldiers on patrol were wounded by unidentified gunmen firing an anti-tank weapon from Sinai while trying to smuggle drugs.
And in 2015, rockets fired from Sinai fell into southern Israel without causing any casualties. The terrorist organization ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.