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3 Israeli soldiers, Egyptian guard killed in gun battle at the border

An Israeli soldier cries outside while another person offers comfort.
An Israeli soldier cries outside a military base after a deadly shootout in southern Israel along the Egyptian border on Saturday.
(Tsafrir Abayov / Associated Press)
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A gun battle along Israel’s southern border with Egypt left three Israeli soldiers and an Egyptian officer dead Saturday, officials said. It was a rare instance of deadly violence along the frontier.

Israel said the Egyptian border guard crossed into Israel and killed the three soldiers before he was fatally shot by troops. Egypt said he had been chasing drug smugglers when he entered Israel.

Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than 40 years and have strong security cooperation. Fighting between the sides is extremely rare.

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

He said that several hours later, two soldiers in a guard post were shot and killed. Their bodies were found after they failed to respond to radio communications.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lobbied for support for a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific.”

June 3, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exchange of fire reportedly took place around the Nitzana border crossing between Israel and Egypt. The crossing is about 25 miles southeast of where Israel’s border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip converge. It’s 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.

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