Conflicting reports after three Israeli soldiers killed near Egypt border

The Palestine Chronicle  /  June 3, 2023

Conflicting reports emerged today from Cairo and Tel Aviv, explaining the circumstances that led to the killing of three Israeli soldiers and the wounding of an officer. The Palestine Chronicle examines the news reports and official statements which emerged in the wake of the battle. 

Three Israeli soldiers were killed, and an officer was wounded by an Egyptian policeman, in a clash that broke out at dawn Saturday, at Al-Awja border crossing, Israeli media reported, citing Israeli military sources.

For its part, the Egyptian side linked the incident to a shooting that occurred while Egyptian soldiers allegedly chased drug smugglers across the border.

Conflicting Narratives

A spokesman for the Egyptian army said in a statement, that “one of the security personnel in charge of securing the international border line chased the drug smuggling elements, and during the chase, the security personnel breached the .. barrier.”

He added that the “element exchanged fire, which led to the death of three Israeli security personnel and the wounding of two others, in addition to the death of the Egyptian security personnel during the exchange of fire.”

As for the Israeli army, it said that “the terrorist who carried out the attack on the border is an Egyptian policeman,” indicating that its soldiers were conducting operations in the area to ensure that there were no “other terrorists.”

The Israeli military stated that the investigation into the incident was being carried out in full and close cooperation with the Egyptian army.

‘Disastrous Results’

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that he had assessed the situation with the army’s Chief of Staff, and that the army was conducting the necessary investigations to uncover the circumstances.

Gallant added, “Our soldiers carried out their duties faithfully, but the incident at the border with Egypt ended with disastrous results.”

At the same time, the Israeli police announced the closure of all roads leading to the border with Egypt.

In his first comment on the incident, the Israeli prime minister said in a letter to his cabinet ministers that the incident near Egypt’s borders was “exceptional,” stressing that it would not affect security cooperation with Cairo, as he put it.

The Israeli army initially refused to confirm news reported by Israeli media about the killing of soldiers. Later it announced the killing of two of its soldiers near the Egyptian border.

Bodies Found

In the afternoon, the army announced the death of three of its soldiers in total and the injury of an officer, indicating that the shooting began at dawn today.

The Israeli army said in a statement that “two soldiers, a man and a woman, were killed by live fire near the border,” noting that they had started their guarding duties yesterday evening, Friday, at an Israeli site in the Negev desert.

A spokesman for the Israeli army stated that their bodies were found on Saturday morning, after which a manhunt began in search of the attacker, who was located several hours later in the same area.

The army said that “in the afternoon, during the search operations during which the soldiers identified the attacker in Israeli territory… and neutralized him,” explaining that a third Israeli soldier was killed during the exchange of fire.

The army announced that the chief of staff conducted an assessment of the security situation at the site of the incident with the commander of the southern region and the commander of the 80th Division.

The Israeli media quoted the commander of the southern region of the army as saying that the investigation is being carried out jointly with the Egyptian side and is still in its infancy.

“We will not leave any question unanswered,” he said.

According to Israeli sources, the Israeli army suspects that there is another fighter who fled into Egyptian territory.

The Israeli broadcasting authority had reported that contacts were taking place between Israel and Egypt to hold an urgent security meeting and to form a bilateral committee to discuss the circumstances of the incident.