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Three Israeli soldiers, Egyptian officer killed in rare gun battle along Israel-Egypt border

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A gun battle involving an Egyptian guard along the border with southern Israel left three Israeli soldiers and the Egyptian officer dead on Saturday, officials say.

“The fatal incident at the Egyptian border during the Sabbath is serious and unusual and will be thoroughly investigated,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht, an Israeli army spokesperson, said the fighting began overnight when soldiers thwarted a drug-smuggling attempt across the border.

Several hours later, two soldiers in a guard post were shot and killed, he said. Their bodies were found after the shooting, when they did not respond to radio communications.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hecht said the killings appeared to be connected to the thwarted drug-smuggling attempt.

The army said the Egyptian border guard was later killed in a second exchange of fire, during which a third Israeli soldier was also killed.

As soon as the two Israeli soldiers were discovered dead, the military treated the incident as a terrorist attack, said Eliezer Toledano, the Israeli military’s Southern Command chief.

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.

It said in a statement that the Egyptian border guard was killed along with three Israeli troops.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hecht said an investigation was being conducted in full cooperation with the Egyptian army. He said troops were searching for other possible assailants.

“We will not leave any question unresolved,” including the possibility that the shooting was related to the smuggling activity overnight, said Mr Toledano.

It was the first deadly exchange of fire along the Israel-Egypt border in more than a decade.

The Israeli army said one of the soldiers killed was a woman.

Criminals sometimes smuggle drugs across the border, while Islamic militant groups are also active in Egypt’s restive north Sinai.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979 and maintain close security ties, meaning fighting along their shared border is rare.

The exchange of fire reportedly took place around the Nitzana border crossing between Israel and Egypt, located about 40 kilometres south-east of the point where Israel’s borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip converge.

The crossing is used to import goods from Egypt destined for Israel or the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel built a fence along the porous border a decade ago, to halt the entry of African migrants and Islamic militants who are active in Egypt’s Sinai desert.

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Article source: ABC/AP/Reuters | 3.6.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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