Two Israeli soldiers were found dead on Saturday morning, June 3, in an isolated observation post on the Egyptian border, in the heart of the Negev desert. Their assailant, a member of the Egyptian security forces, was shot dead in the afternoon after a long hunt, according to the army. Before dying, he managed to kill a third Israeli soldier and wound a fourth.
This extremely rare incident embarrassed two states that have maintained a cold relationship since the signing of a peace treaty in 1979, which remains unpopular in Egypt. It also sparked painful debates for three days in the Israeli media, in this country which does not tolerate its military deaths badly.
This peaceful border is at the bottom of the Israeli army’s order of priorities. Its main challenge is to stem the smuggling of drugs there. Saturday, around three o’clock in the morning, she had seized a large shipment in this sector, worth 400,000 dollars (373,000 euros) for sale. Soldiers had remained on watch all around.
The first two victims, Lia Ben Nun and Ori Yitzhak Illouz, are young conscripts, a woman and a man, members of the mixed Bardelas battalion – a unit less trained and less equipped than the regular infantry brigades. The army’s main spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, told Kan public radio that they took up duty at nine o’clock on Friday evening for an exceptionally long solitary twelve-hour vigil.
Criticism of mixed units
They should have maintained radio contact with their hierarchy every hour. It was not the case. Their last call was at four fifteen in the morning. Their bodies were found around nine o’clock by the commander who came to relieve them.
The assailant had crossed the border – a 240 kilometer long fence – through a poorly secured door, closed with a simple plastic link. The sensors placed around detected no presence – the army mentioned the weather conditions, the sand and the wind.
Around noon, a drone combing the area ended up spotting an individual walking alone a kilometer away. The army explained that the resolution of the image did not allow to know with certainty if it was armed, or if it was about a hiker. She dispatched an interception team. The man was able to shoot down one of the members of this team by adjusting his shot from nearly 200 meters away, before being joined and killed, not without injuring another soldier.
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