Netanyahu and Sissi speak in wake of deadly border attack, reaffirm security bond

PM’s office cites ‘deep condolences’ offered by Egyptian leader, whose spokesperson merely says conversation addressed the ‘shooting incident’; both sides pledge investigation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (right) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2018. (Avi Ohayon / PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (right) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2018. (Avi Ohayon / PMO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone Tuesday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the aftermath of the slaying of three Israel Defense forces soldiers by an Egyptian policeman who crossed the border.

According to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office, Sissi expressed his “deep condolences” over the attack and committed to a “joint and exhaustive investigation.”

However, a spokesman for the Egyptian presidential palace did not mention an expression of condolences, instead simply saying that the conversation “addressed the shooting incident at the Egyptian-Israel border on Saturday, June 3, 2023, that led to the deaths of border security personnel.”

The spokesperson, Ahmed Fahmy, also noted that the phone call was initiated by Netanyahu.

“The president and prime minister of Israel have affirmed the importance of full coordination to uncover all the circumstances of the incident,” he added in a brief statement.

Both sides affirmed their commitment to upholding the two countries’ peace treaty and security coordination.

In this handout photo, IDF chief Herzi Halevi speaks with officers at the scene of a deadly shooting and clashes on the border with Egypt, June 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

On Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel had informed Egypt it expected a full investigation into the killing of the three soldiers.

“Israel sent a clear message to the Egyptian government: We expect the joint investigation to be exhaustive and thorough,” he said in remarks opening the weekly cabinet meeting. “This is part of the important security cooperation between us, which has existed to the benefit of both countries for years.”

Netanyahu pledged to “draw all the necessary conclusions” concerning military operations along the border fence. “We will refresh the rules, the operational methods and also the means to minimize smuggling and ensure tragic attacks like this won’t occur again,” he added.

The premier also expressed condolences to families of the slain troops, Staff Sgt. Ori Yitzhak Iluz, Staff Sgt. Ohad Dahan and Sgt. Lia Ben Nun.

Staff Sgt. Ohad Dahan, 20, (left) Sgt. Lia Ben Nun, 19, and Staff Sgt. Ori Yitzhak Iluz (center) combat soldiers in the Bardelas Battalion, who were shot dead on the Egyptian border on June 3, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)

The three were combat soldiers in the mixed-gender light infantry Bardelas and Caracal battalions, tasked with guarding the border.

According to the IDF’s initial probe, the Egyptian policeman infiltrated the border through an emergency gate early Saturday morning.

He is then believed to have snuck up to the guard post and opened fire between 6 and 7 a.m., killing Ben Nun and Iluz. After the soldiers did not answer calls on the radio on Saturday morning shortly before their shift was set to end at 9 a.m., an officer went to the scene and discovered the pair dead near the post.

Shortly after 11 a.m., an army drone identified the attacker hiding behind a rock formation some 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from the border.

The attacker opened fire at a group of soldiers approaching the area — some 200 meters away — fatally hitting Dahan. Several minutes later, another group of soldiers closed in on the Egyptian, killing him. One noncommissioned officer was lightly wounded in the second clash, which occurred before noon.

The Egyptian policeman accused of killing the three was named Monday as Mohamed Salah Ibrahim, 22, from Cairo.

(Left) Mohamed Salah Ibrahim, 22, the Egyptian policeman who killed three IDF soldiers on the border. (Right) This image taken from video shows an IDF post that was attacked by Ibrahim, June 3, 2023. (Social media; Israel Defense Forces)

According to Arabic-language media reports, Ibrahim was drafted into the Egyptian army in June 2022 and stationed on the Israel border as a policeman. He was reportedly set to end his service in the near future.

Ibrahim is believed by the Israel Defense Forces to have acted alone in the deadly attack. Egypt has sought to distance itself from the policeman, with Egyptian officials saying they had been unaware of his intentions, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The IDF and the Egyptian army were jointly probing the attacker’s motives.

Egyptian defense officials visited the scene of the attack on Saturday afternoon and met with senior IDF officials, the military said.

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