Egyptian soldier killed in cross-border fire near Rafah

Cairo and Israeli authorities say the incident is under investigation

Egyptians perform prayers during the funeral of a soldier killed near the Rafah crossing on Monday. Getty Images
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An Egyptian soldier was killed and three others wounded in cross-border fire with Israeli forces near the Rafah crossing on Monday, with incident threatening to further damage relations between Egypt and Israel.

Sources told The National the incident occurred when Egyptian forces fired warning shots at Israeli troops, who were on the Palestinian side of the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Israeli forces then responded with a “hail” of bullets, they added.

An Egyptian military official said the armed forces were investigating the shooting that took place on the border between the Sinai Peninsula and Rafah. The statement made no mention of Israel.

The Israeli army said a “shooting incident occurred on the Egyptian border” and that an investigation was under way.

“The incident is under review and discussions are being held with the Egyptians,” it said.

Border skirmishes between Egyptian and Israeli forces are rare. The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between the two nations.

In January, seven Egyptian border guards were wounded when an Israeli tank fired on their position near the Karam Abu Salem crossing on the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border. Israel said its tank had fired accidentally.

Other fatal incidents on the border have involved alleged smugglers and a brief clash in June last year when an Egyptian policeman, acting alone, shot and killed three Israeli soldiers on the border, before being killed by Israeli fire.

On Monday, Cairo issued a strong statement condemning an attack on a refugee camp in Rafah the night before which killed at least 45 people, calling it a “deliberate” Israeli strike.

Egypt was the first Arab country to establish ties with Israel. Both countries are bound by a US-sponsored peace treaty signed in 1979, but their relations have been fraught with tension since the start of the war in Gaza.

Relations fell to a new low when Israel’s military seized the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on May 7.

Egypt is worried that Palestinians could be displaced from southern Gaza by the Rafah offensive, and has also repeatedly accused Israel of holding up deliveries of humanitarian aid to the territory, something Israel denies.

Updated: May 28, 2024, 7:21 AM