Three Israeli soldiers were killed on the Egyptian border. An Egyptian policeman also died. The incident may be related to a thwarted drug smuggling operation.
Three Israeli soldiers have been killed in an armed attack on the Egyptian border. An Egyptian policeman also died. The Israeli army assumes that he is the alleged attacker. He was killed in a shootout.
It is currently unclear how the police officer was able to cross the heavily guarded border fence. Israel’s military continued to search the area at the scene of the incident in Har Kharif.
Possible connection with drug smuggling
According to Israeli sources, two of the soldiers, a man and a woman, were on guard duty in a remote spot on the border when they were shot, presumably in the early morning.
The incident apparently happened a few hours after a major drug smuggling operation on the Egyptian border was foiled overnight. Israeli army spokesman Richard Hecht said it was possible the deaths of the two soldiers were linked to drug smuggling.
The army only noticed that something was wrong when the two soldiers did not report back on the radio, said Hecht. Emergency services then found the bodies of the two and began searching for the perpetrator.
Third soldier dies while searching for the perpetrator
There was an exchange of gunfire with the alleged perpetrator, who was armed with a Kalashnikov, according to the Israeli army spokesman. A third Israeli soldier died. Hecht emphasized that Israel is working closely with the Egyptian authorities to clarify the incident.
According to the Egyptian representation, however, the police officer is not the alleged perpetrator. The man was therefore on the hunt for drug smugglers. He had therefore crossed the border system, after which the fatal shots had taken place. Two other people are said to have been injured.
First fatal exchange of fire in ten years
Israel’s Defense Minister Joav Galant held an emergency meeting with military chief Herzi Halevi immediately after the incident. It was the first deadly firefight on the Israeli-Egyptian border in more than a decade. According to the military, the incident occurred near the Nitzana border crossing between Israel and Egypt.
The border crossing is about 40 kilometers southeast of the point where the borders between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip meet. It is used to import goods from Egypt bound for Israel or the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Israel erected a fence along the border ten years ago to prevent the entry of African migrants and Islamist militants active in the Sinai desert. Criminals occasionally smuggle drugs across the border. Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979 and have close security ties.
With information from Julio Segador, ARD Studio Tel Aviv