Israeli and Egyptian troops and police exchanged fire on Saturday, June 3, in a rare border incident while pursuing smugglers in the Mt. Harif district of the Negev. The incident occurred on the Israeli side of the border. But first, at 21.00 hours Friday night, two Israeli soldiers, a male and a female, were killed during their 12-hour guard duty shift. When on Saturday morning they failed to respond to calls, their commanding officer sent a force to investigate. They were found at 8.00 Saturday morning dead of bullet wounds. The suspected “terrorist” was run to earth by a search force in the harsh desert terrain. He was killed in the ensuing exchange of fire, during which a third Israeli soldier was killed and a fourth injured.
Reporting on the event, the IDF spokesman stated that it occurred with no previous warning. “Searches continue for additional suspects. We are on full alert and are working hard to find out how the terrorist was able to sneak across the border,” he said.
Egyptian spokesman abstained from using the term ”terrorist” or fixing blame for the Israel deaths. In an official communique, the Egyptian military stated: “A security member belonging to the force guarding the border was chasing drug smugglers when he crossed the border and was caught up in an exchange of fire that caused the death of three Israeli soldiers. An Egyptian security member was also killed in the same exchange of fire, after which, searches continued and additional steps taken to enforce security in the area. We are investigating the event to find out how it happened.”
The Egyptian statement conveyed condolences to the families of the victims and good wishes for the full recovery of the wounded.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant conducted an appraisal of the event with chief of staff Lt. Gen. Hertzi Halevy and security chiefs. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received an ongoing briefing.
The IDF first reported the event early Saturday, saying: “Two soldiers, a male and a female, were killed in a shooting attack Saturday morning at the Egyptian border near Mt. Sagi in the Negev. In a subsequent exchange of fire, ‘a gunman’ was killed.“ In a second statement, the IDF said: “During an encounter with a terrorist in Israeli territory, a short while ago, an exchange of fire developed. Troops and commanders engaged [the suspect] and shot and killed him.”
The IDF said the assailant was an Egyptian police officer. “An investigation is underway in close and full cooperation with the Egyptian army,” the IDF added.
The Israel-Egyptian border has remained for the most part untroubled since the signing of the 1979 peace pact between the two countries after Israel constructed a strong border wall to deter jihadist terrorist incursions and drug smugglers.
Hours before the first attack on the Israeli guard post, IDF troops foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs from Egypt into Israel across the border.