Israeli army says Egypt border deaths could have been prevented

Israeli army says Egypt border deaths could have been prevented
Israel has pointed to "errors" leading to a deadly Egypt-border shooting earlier this month, saying the rare incident could have been prevented.
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Three Israeli soldiers were killed on June 3 on the usually quiet Egyptian-Israeli frontier [Gett]

The Israeli army on Tuesday pointed to "inadequacies and errors" leading to a deadly incident this month at the border with Egypt that it said need not have happened.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed on June 3 after an Egyptian policeman crossed into Israeli territory in a rare cross-border incident between the two countries.

Egypt has blamed the fatal clash in the Negev desert on a member of its security forces who was also killed, saying he had crossed the border in pursuit of drug traffickers when he encountered the Israeli troops.

Israel's military chief Herzi Halevi on Tuesday issued the findings of an investigation into the causes of the incident, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a full investigation.

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Halevi pointed to operational and command errors leading up to the incident, concluding that it "could and should have been prevented".

The report highlights several factors that facilitated the attack, including an opening in the border fence with Egypt.

Among lessons for immediate implementation, "it was decided to seal the security crossings in the border fence, reduce the duration of the missions of the soldiers from 12 consecutive hours," and assign "a different minimum number of soldiers" for such guard duties, it said.

Following the incident, Israel and Egypt were quick to reaffirm their cooperation.

"An additional inquiry was held in collaboration with the Egyptian Armed Forces," the report said, noting that Israeli military officials had visited Cairo.

An Egyptian delegation made up of military officials also visited Israel as part of the joint investigation, a source familiar with the matter told AFP on condition of anonymity.

According to this same source, the assailant did not have any links to Islamist organisations but appeared to have become radicalised.

Although his name was not officially released, Egyptian media have identified him as Mohamad Salah, a 22-year-old conscript.

Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1978, but there remains widespread popular opposition to normalisation with Israel in Egypt.

The border between the two countries is largely calm but there have been occasional attacks, as well as several previous incidents involving traffickers.