IDF patrol comes under fire on Egypt border

Two soldiers moderately to seriously injured in attack from Sinai; army returns fire; area residents asked to remain indoors

Mount Harif and the road running along the border between Israel and Egypt. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Mount Harif and the road running along the border between Israel and Egypt. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Gunmen in the Sinai Peninsula opened fire on an IDF patrol near the Egyptian border on Wednesday afternoon, injuring two soldiers.

The army said that the soldiers were wounded and were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

Both the IDF and Egyptian army were sending troops to the area.

The Israeli soldiers reportedly returned fire and there were ongoing exchanges in the area.

Egyptian security sources told Arabic news site Masrawy that the radical Islamist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis was behind the attack. According to Egyptian officials quoted by Channel 2, three gunmen approached the border in a four-by-four and opened fire. The officials said Egyptian soldiers were injured in the incident, but it wasn’t clear from the report how many or by whom.

The incident occurred near Mount Harif in the central Negev Desert, about 112 kilometers from Eilat.

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said that the shooting attack took place near the community of Izuz.

The soldiers came under anti-tank- and gunfire, he said, noting that the wounded soldiers were not in critical condition.

A female company commander in the Caracal Battalion, which patrols the area, suffered light injuries  and a second soldier was in serious condition, Channel 2 reported.

Residents of the area were instructed to remain in their homes.

Lerner said the army did not know who was behind the attack but that “jihadi elements” were known to operate in the area.

The al-Arabiya news outlet cited sources in Egypt reporting Egyptian soldiers who were chasing smugglers accidentally fired the shots at the troops.

The Sinai Peninsula is home to numerous Islamist terror groups, including Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which was responsible for an attack earlier this year on a bus headed for Israel at the Taba border crossing that left four tourists dead.

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The group has also claimed responsibility for several instances of rocket fire on Israel and attacks on Egyptian security forces and Sinai civilians.

Egypt sentenced a number of jihadists to death recently, including seven on Wednesday morning.

On October 11 Egyptian soldiers killed a top member of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis who was involved in a deadly attack on security forces in the Sinai.

The Mount Harif region is one of the most remote in Israel, and the deep canyons there have long served as smuggling routes for drugs and people into Israel.

In a separate incident several kilometers from the attack, five soldiers were injured Wednesday when their vehicle rolled over.

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