A shootout involving an Egyptian border guard on the border area with Israel killed three Israeli soldiers and the Egyptian officer on Saturday, authorities said, a rare case of deadly violence along the border.
Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said the fighting began in the early hours of the morning when Israeli soldiers foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs across the border.
He said that several hours later, two soldiers at a guard post were shot dead. Their bodies were found after the shooting, as they were not responding to radio communications. The Israeli army said that one of the soldiers killed was a woman.
Hecht said the murders appeared to be related to a failed drug smuggling attempt. The army said the Egyptian border guard was killed in a second exchange of fire in which a third Israeli soldier was killed.
Egypt’s army said in a statement that the Egyptian border guard crossed the border security barrier and exchanged fire with Israeli forces while chasing the drug smugglers. He added that the Egyptian border guard was killed along with the three Israeli soldiers.
Hecht said an investigation was underway in full cooperation with the Egyptian military. He said the troops were searching for other possible attackers.
It was the first deadly exchange of fire along the Israel-Egypt border in more than a decade.
Criminals sometimes smuggle drugs across the border, while Islamic militant groups are also active in Egypt’s restive north, in the Sinai. Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979 and maintain close security ties. Acts of violence along its bilateral border are rare.