Egypt foils drug smuggling on border with Israel

One smuggler killed, six arrested in an exchange of fire with Egyptian security forces

The border with Egypt at Rafah in southern Gaza. Cairo says its security forces confiscated 175kg of drugs after a gun battle with smugglers. AP
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Egypt said on Tuesday it exchanged fire with drug smugglers on its border with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula, killing one of them and arresting six.

Israel said one of its soldiers was “slightly injured” in the same incident, which took place late on Monday to the south of the Al Awja border crossing.

Drugs weighing 174kg were confiscated, according to a statement by the Egyptian military spokesman posted on his official Facebook page.

Avichay Adraee, the Israeli army's Arabic spokesman, put the number of the smugglers at 20 and said on X that an unspecified number were injured in the shooting.

The Al Awja crossing is where Israel inspects humanitarian aid destined for Gaza.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979 and have since co-operated on counterterrorism and combating human and drugs trafficking across their border.

The latest smuggling incident comes at a time when Egypt-Israel relations are fraught with tension over the Gaza war and Israel’s suggestion that it wants to control a corridor that runs along Egypt’s 13-kilometre border with Gaza, where Hamas has ruled since 2007.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that a decision had yet to be made about a potential military takeover of the “Philadelphia Corridor”, the stretch of land that runs alongside the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt.

He said that sealing off the zone to isolate Hamas was one of Israel's aims for the war in Gaza, and that "there are a number of options" for how it could do so, including moving troops into the corridor.

“We have looked into these and have yet to make a decision,” he added.

Egyptian security officials earlier this month said Cairo has rejected Israel's suggested plan to install surveillance cameras and sensors on the Gaza side of the border.

Egypt has recently built a concrete wall alongside its border with Gaza together with a fence of barbed wire.

Updated: January 16, 2024, 1:38 PM