JERUSALEM/CAIRO (Reuters) – Three Israeli soldiers and an Egyptian security officer were killed on Saturday on Israel’s southern border with Egypt, the two countries said, which said they were jointly investigating the circumstances of the incident that remain unclear.
According to the Israeli army, an Egyptian policeman shot and killed two of his soldiers as they secured a military post at the border early Saturday, after the military foiled a major smuggling attempt overnight.
The Egyptian officer and a third Israeli soldier were killed a few hours later during a confrontation on Israeli territory.
The IDF treated the incident as a terrorist attack upon discovering the death of the two soldiers, said IDF Southern Command Chief Eliezer Toledano.
For its part, the Egyptian army indicated that the security agent, who was pursuing smugglers on the other side of the border, and the three Israelis were killed during an exchange of fire.
Egyptian and Israeli officials are investigating the circumstances of the incident in full cooperation, the Israeli military and two Egyptian security sources said.
“We won’t leave any questions open,” including the possibility that the shooting was linked to the night’s smuggling activities, Eliezer Toledano said.
How the Egyptian officer broke through the border fence is unclear and soldiers were searching the area to rule out the presence of other assailants, the IDF said.
According to an Israeli army spokesman, two soldiers were shot dead while on duty in a relatively desert area along the border with Egypt on Saturday morning. Their bodies were later found unresponsive to radio calls, he added.
When the army understood that an incident was taking place, the soldiers identified an infiltration into Israeli territory, which led to a shootout in which the assailant, an Egyptian policeman, and the third Israeli soldier were killed, the spokesman said.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he had made an assessment with the chief of staff and that the army “will investigate the event as appropriate”.
Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and the border area, which is more than 200 km long, has seen few clashes.
Attempts to smuggle drugs into the region are frequent, but the last known infiltration into Israel that resulted in casualties dates back to a decade ago, said the spokesman for the Israeli army.
(Report Bureau du Caire, Henriette Chacar; French version Claude Chendjou and Kate Entringer)
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