image Photo: Flash90

3 IDF troops killed near Egypt

The deadly incident occurred in the area of the Paran Regional Brigade.

By Erin Viner

Two IDF soldiers, a male and a female, were killed early Saturday morning by an Egyptian security services member who crossed into Israel via the two country’s shared border fence.

Sergeant Lia Ben Nun, 19, of Rishon LeZion and Sergeant Ori Izhak Iluz, 20, of Safed, both combat soldiers in the Bardelas Battalion, were shot to death while conducting routine activity at their remote military post between Mount Sagi and Mount Harif in the Negev desert.

The assailant, who was hunted down with use of a military drone, was neutralized by the IDF after engaging in a firefight.

A third Israeli soldier then fell in battle, identified as Staff Sergeant Ohad Dahan. The 20-year-old resident of Ofakim was serving as combat soldier in the Caracal Battalion. An IDF non-commissioned officer was also lightly injured in the gunfight.

The IDF expressed heartfelt condolences and commitment toward continued support of the fallen soldiers’ families. In posthumous promotions, Sgt. Ben Nun was appointed to Corporal, Sgts. Dahan and Iluz to Staff Sergeants.

The killer was identified by the Egyptian army as a border security officer, who it said had crossed the security barrier in pursuit of drug smugglers. Coworkers and family members are being interviewed to ascertain whether he belonged to any known terror / political groups or had a history of mental illness.

“This is a difficult incident, during which three soldiers, two young men and a young woman, were killed during operational activity to maintain the security along the Egyptian border,” said IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi following a situational assessment of the Paran Regional Brigade with the officers leading investigation of the incident: Southern Command Head Major General Eliezer Toledano, 80th Edom Division Commanding Officer Brigadier General Itzik Cohen and International Cooperation Division Head Brigadier General Effie Defrin.

The Israeli army and Egyptian Armed Forces are conducting “a thorough, in-depth” investigation into the incident, emphasized Israel’s top military leader, including circumstances under which the gunman infiltrated the country.

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel and they share a more than 200 km (124 mile) long border.

The frontier between the neighboring states is generally peaceful due to close bilateral security cooperation, although there are frequent drug smuggling attempts – including one that took place prior to the deadly violence. IDF soldiers foiled over 500 attempts to bring drugs into the country from the lawless Sinai Peninsula last year, 200 times the number in 2021, an Israeli official said in January.

“Our hearts are with the families in their profound grief,” stated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon after conclusion of the Sabbath.

“The deadly incident on the Egyptian border on Shabbat is severe and extraordinary and will be fully investigated,” he said, while commend the forces who “sought contact and eliminated the terrorist.”

At the start of his weekly Cabinet session yesterday, the Premier said that Jerusalem has strongly conveyed its expectation to Cairo for an exhaustive and thorough joint investigation into the incident.

“This is part of the important security cooperation between us, which has benefitted both countries over the years. We will draw all the necessary conclusions regarding our actions along the fence on the southern border, the Israeli-Egyptian border,” underscored Netanyahu.

The security barrier was built in 2013 to prevent entry into Israel by terrorists, weapons and drug smugglers, and illegal migrants. Netanyahu vowed that all relevant policies will be “reinvigorated” as a means “to ensure that tragic attacks such as these do not recur.”

Joint efforts to prevent further such incidents of cross-border violence were the focus of later discussions by the two country’s top defense officials. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expressed appreciation to his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Zaki for Cairo’s cooperation into investigation of the incident, said a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. They also reaffirmed the importance of bilateral ties and shared commitment to “maintaining ongoing communication and ensuring the cooperation between the respective establishments to prevent such events in the future,” said the statement.

In an eerily similar previous attack, an Egyptian border guard illegally crossed into Israel and opened fire with an assault rifle 7 kilometers north of Eilat on 26 November 1990,  killing three Israeli soldiers and one civilian.  Other incidents include the 2016 murder of a 15-year-old Bedouin teen when an Egyptian soldier shot at Israeli construction workers performing routine maintenance work along the border fence.