Saturday bore witness to a tragic encounter along the southern border shared by Egypt and Israel, where shootings claimed the lives of three Israeli soldiers and an Egyptian policeman, according to military sources from both countries.
The Israeli military confirmed the loss of two soldiers – one male and one female – near the Egyptian border. A third soldier was killed during an armed confrontation with an assailant in the vicinity of the Paran Regional Brigade.
The Israeli army identified the perpetrator as an Egyptian policeman. “An investigation is being conducted in full co-operation with the Egyptian army,” stated the military spokesperson.
The immediate vicinity was subsequently swept by soldiers to eliminate the possibility of remaining assailants. The female soldier who was killed was later identified as 19-year-old Lia Ben Nun. In addition to the fatalities, a non-commissioned officer sustained minor injuries.
An Egyptian armed forces spokesperson divulged that “a member of the security forces breached the border security barrier” during a pursuit of drug traffickers, which resulted in the deaths of three Israeli soldiers and injuries to two others.
According to the Egyptian spokesman’s statement, the Egyptian security officer was also killed during the exchange of fire.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, stating, “The fatal incident at the Egyptian border during the Sabbath is serious and unusual and will be thoroughly investigated.”
Senior members of the Israeli army, including Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Herzi Halevi and the commander of the Southern Command, arrived at the scene to assess the situation and oversee the investigation.
In an unrelated incident hours before the fatal encounter, Israeli forces successfully intercepted an attempted drug-smuggling operation at the border. They seized contraband estimated to be worth 1.5 million shekels ($400,000), a military spokesman revealed.
At present, the Israeli military has found no connection between the drug seizure and the subsequent violent episode on the border.
Despite the peace forged between Israel and Egypt following the 1978 Camp David accords – with Egypt being the first Arab nation to formalise such relations – the border region is occasionally disturbed by drug smugglers who engage in skirmishes with Israeli troops.
This incident follows several violent encounters along the border in recent years. In 2011, a triple ambush by assailants originating from Sinai resulted in eight Israeli fatalities. Subsequent pursuits by Israeli forces led to the deaths of seven attackers and five Egyptian police.
In 2012, three militants who infiltrated from Sinai and an Israeli soldier lost their lives in a border clash. Two years later, unidentified men from the Sinai attacked two Israeli soldiers with an anti-tank weapon during a failed drug-smuggling operation.
In a 2015 incident, rockets launched from Sinai struck southern Israel, although no casualties were reported. ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack.
Image Credit: AFP