Gunman kills 3 Israeli troops near border with Egypt

Al-Jazeera  /  June 3, 2023

Attack by a man dressed in an Egyptian security forces uniform took place during operations against drug smugglers in the Naqab desert.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack near Egypt’s border after a gunman wearing an Egyptian police uniform opened fire – the first deadly exchange along the demarcation in more than a decade.

The Israeli military said an Egyptian policeman shot dead two soldiers while they secured a military post at the Egyptian border early on Saturday. It said the Egyptian officer and a third Israeli soldier were killed in a confrontation inside Israeli territory hours later.

The Egyptian military said an Egyptian border guard crossed the border security barrier and exchanged fire with Israeli forces while he was chasing drug traffickers.

“A member of the security forces … chased drug smugglers. During the chase the security agent crossed the security fence [border]” and a gun battle ensued, a statement said.

The incident took place near the Nitzana and Al-Awja border crossing between Israel and Egypt, 40km (25 miles) southeast of the point where Israel’s border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip converge. It is used to import goods from Egypt destined for Israel or the Gaza Strip.

Egypt’s Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki spoke by phone with his Israeli counterpart to discuss the shooting on the border, and “the mutual coordination to take measures to prevent such incidents in the future”, the Egyptian military said in a statement.

The Egyptian minister also offered condolences for the dead Israeli troops, it said.

Exchange of fire

Two of the soldiers were found dead at an Israeli military post after they failed to respond to their radios. The Israeli army said one of the killed soldiers was a woman. A fourth soldier was lightly wounded and evacuated to a hospital.

“During an encounter with an assailant in Israeli territory … an exchange of fire developed. Troops and commanders engaged [the suspect] and shot and killed him,” the army said.

Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said he conducted a situational assessment with the chief of staff and the military “will investigate the event as required”.

The investigation will include the possibility the shooting was related to smuggling activity, said Eliezer Toledano, the Israeli military’s Southern Command chief. “We will not leave any question unresolved.”

The Israeli military said it was unclear how the Egyptian officer crossed the border fence and soldiers were searching the area to rule out additional assailants.

According to Al-Jazeera’s bureau chief in Palestine, Walid al-Omari, the border was active between 2004 and 2012 until Israel built a 241km (150-mile)-long border fence that extends from Eilat and Taba on the Red Sea to the meeting point of the Egyptian-Israeli-Palestinian border east of Rafah.

The fence was to stop the entry of African refugees and migrants, and armed fighters linked to ISIL (ISIS) who are active in Egypt’s Sinai desert, he said.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and maintain close security ties. Fighting along their shared border is rare.



Three Israeli soldiers and one Egyptian officer killed in border clash

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 3, 2023

Israeli military describes Egyptian officer as ‘assailant’ who crossed the border and attacked an army post.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed on Saturday in a rare exchange of fire involving an Egyptian security officer near the border between the two countries. 

Two Israeli troopers, one male and one female, guarding a border army post were found dead from live fire in the early hours of the morning.

Hours later, the Israeli military said it was involved in an exchange of fire while conducting searches in the area.

The shoot-out left an Egyptian security officer and a third Israeli soldier killed. 

In a statement, the Israeli military described the Egyptian officer as an “assailant” who was exchanging fire with its troops. 

The Egyptian military released a statement confirming the death of an officer in Israel.

It said he crossed the border during a police chase of drug smugglers. He was then involved in an exchange of gunfire that left him and three Israelis dead. Two others were wounded, it said.

The Israeli military said an “investigation is being conducted in full cooperation” with the Egyptian military.

Later on Saturday, Egypt’s Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki spoke with his Israeli counterpart in a phone call to discuss taking necessary measures to prevent such an incident from happening again, an Egyptian army statement said.

Israeli Army spokesman Daniel Hagari confirmed that the military foiled a drug smuggling attempt at 2:30am, which took place some 3km north of the army post that was attacked at around 6am.

However, he said he did not know how to link the two incidents.

It was reported earlier that the attack on the army post took place near the southern border town of Nitzana, which is home to an Israeli military camp and a commercial border crossing with Egypt. 

The Times of Israel later said the incident occurred between Mount Sagi and Mount Harif, some 50km south of Nitzana.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant held a brief assessment meeting over the incident with Herzi Halevi, the chief of staff of the armed forces, and other defence officials. 

The 200km border between Israel and Egypt enjoys relative calm, though drug-smuggling attempts have increased in recent years, leading to confrontations between Israeli troops and smugglers. 

According to Israeli army statistics, at least 800 “operational incidents” resulting from smuggling attempts took place in 2022, a nearly 100 percent increase from the previous year.

Egypt and Israel fought in four wars between 1948 and 1973, but no major hostilities have happened between the two since they signed a peace treaty in 1979. 

In 1985, Egyptian border policeman Suleiman Khater killed seven Israeli tourists in Sinai and was later sentenced to life imprisonment by an Egyptian court. He was found dead in a Cairo prison cell days after his conviction.

In 1990, border policeman Ayman Mohammed Hassan crossed into Israel and killed four Israelis, including three soldiers. He was given a 12-year prison sentence by an Egyptian court and was released in 2000.