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Egyptian police ‘accidentally’ shot at IDF jeep on border, army finds

Israel, Egyptian militaries will continue to investigate Saturday night’s ‘exceptional’ incident, which caused neither injuries nor damage

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative: An Israeli military jeep patrols along the border with Egypt on March 29, 2005. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative: An Israeli military jeep patrols along the border with Egypt on March 29, 2005. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Egyptian police “accidentally” fired shots at an Israeli army jeep near the border over the weekend, according to an initial investigation of the incident, the army said Wednesday.

On Saturday night, a battalion commander of one of the units guarding the Israeli-Egyptian border reported that gunshots had been fired toward his jeep, causing neither injury nor damage to the vehicle.

An initial investigation of the shooting by the Israel Defense Forces found that the gunfire had come from an Egyptian police unit stationed nearby.

An army spokesperson said the shots appeared to have been fired “accidentally,” but it was not immediately clear if the Egyptian soldiers had misidentified the Israeli military vehicle or if it had been a misfire of their weapon.

“We don’t think it was deliberately against Israel,” the IDF spokesperson said.

According to the army, both Israel and Egypt are continuing to investigate the incident and may present a joint final report once their probes are completed.

The army spokesperson stressed that this was an “exceptional” incident on what is normally a relatively calm border in terms of violence. Smuggling and other types of criminal activity do occur along the Israeli-Egyptian border on a regular basis.

In January, Israeli and Egyptian security forces engaged in what Border Police described as a “massive” gun battle with drug-runners during a large-scale smuggling attempt over the Sinai border fence late Sunday night, which resulted in the death of one suspect.

A month later, the Israel Police arrested 20 suspected drug smugglers from the Bedouin town of Bir Hadaj, who were accused of posing as IDF patrols in order to approach the Egyptian border to receive their illicit cargo.

Bir Hadaj, located approximately 20 minutes from the border, has long been known to police as a drug-smuggling site. The gangs operating out of the town would store marijuana from Egypt there before distributing it to dealers throughout the country, according to police.

A member of the suspected smuggling ring told Hadashot news that he and his cohorts would continue their activities despite the police raid.

“We have enough means and money to smuggle cannabis and marijuana out of Egypt, and we have more military equipment that the police did not catch,” he told the news station. “The police will not prevent us from our smuggling.”

The Israeli-Egyptian border has also seen tragic accidents, including one in October 2016, in which a 15-year-old Bedouin Israeli, Nimer Bassem Abu Amar, was shot dead by Egyptian troops near Mount Harif in southern Israel while he was working on the border fence on behalf of the Defense Ministry.

Following an investigation, the Israel Defense Forces said an Egyptian security officer opened fire in a case of “misidentification.”

Abu Amar, from Lakiya, a predominantly Bedouin village in southern Israel, had been employed by a civilian subcontractor hired by the Defense Ministry to perform maintenance work on the fence.

The teenager had been working close to the border at the time of the incident, pouring coffee for other workers, in an area where the designation between Israeli and Egyptian territory can be unclear.

Abu Amar was apparently mistaken by the Egyptian troops as either a criminal smuggler or a terrorist from one of the insurgent jihadist groups affiliated with the Islamic State organization, with whom Egypt is fighting an ongoing war, reportedly with Israeli assistance.

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