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Egypt consoles Israel after border shooting, sparks backlash

Egypt consoles Israel after border shooting, sparking backlash
5 min read
04 June, 2023
Egyptians and Arabs have gone online to celebrate a Saturday shooting along the Egyptian-Israeli border which saw a number of Israeli soldiers killed, slamming Cairo for offering condolences.
The border between Israel and Egypt has seen some deadly clashes over the past decade but is mostly quiet [Getty]

Egypt’s Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki has offered condolences to his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant on Saturday evening, hours after a border shooting left three Israeli soldiers killed.

Zaki vowed to take measures to prevent any such incident from reoccurring through coordination between both sides.

"The Egyptian Minister of Defense confirmed [ongoing] joint coordination between the two sides, to take the necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future," an Egyptian defence ministry statement said on the phone call between the two ministers.

Three Israeli soldiers and a member of Egypt's security forces were killed on Saturday in a rare exchange of fire near the border between the two countries, official sources from both sides said.

The Israeli army said an Egyptian assailant shot dead two soldiers "in the early morning... while they secured a military post at the Egyptian border" on Mount Harif, near the town of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert.

The discovery of their bodies triggered a manhunt during which a third soldier was killed.

An Israeli army statement identified the attacker as an Egyptian policeman.

Egyptian media then identified him as Sleiman Khater, adding that Israeli troops killed him after being found "inside Israeli territory".

A fourth Israeli soldier, a non-commissioned officer, was lightly wounded and evacuated to the hospital, the statement added.

'Israel's border security compromised'

On Sunday, Israel's Army Radio announced new details of the shooting, claiming that the Egyptian security member had a Quran beside him, indicating that he had "religious motives", as well as a knife and six cylinders "which indicate he had planned to carry out the operation with accuracy".

The operation has worried Israelis, prompting a debate on just how secure the border is.

Israeli journalist Tal Lev-Ram claimed that the shooter travelled a distance of five kilometres from his position to the border fence, carrying a bag containing cylinders, and two commando knives, one of which he allegedly used to cut the fence wires.

Lev-Ram added that – based on information provided by the Israeli army’s spokesperson’s office – an unmanned aircraft managed to locate the Egyptian border guard after he managed to cross at least a kilometre and a half into Israeli territory.

Bypassing the security fence which has cost the Israeli treasury billions is a "serious failure", said Israeli veteran journalist Yoav Limor.

The border fence is between five and seven meters high and is equipped with electronic sensor systems that are meant to provide early warnings about any intrusion attempts.

Israel will face a security dilemma if it cannot ensure its border with Egypt remains calm, said Limor, adding that he believed Israel would question Egypt on the border guards' backgrounds and ideologies to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Former general in the Israeli army Amos Yadlin urged preparedness for future operations.

"The Egyptians [people] have not accepted peace with us, and this requires us to assume that, from time to time, hostile operations will take place from this ally," he told the Army Radio on Sunday.

Saturday’s incident "must not sabotage the relationship with our strong neighbour", he added.

Arabs celebrate the 'Egyptian martyr'

The defence ministry’s statement, shared on social media, received a flurry of comments from Egyptians condemning Cairo’s message of condolences to Israel.

Egypt and Israel have shared diplomatic ties since signing a 1979 peace treaty, but much of the country’s population has continued to take an anti-Israel stance because of its ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.

People expressed their outrage and mockery at the Egyptian government for offering condolences to Israel despite its brutal military campaigns against the Palestinians, which have killed over 160 people since the start of this year alone in both the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

"Did you know that the operation carried out by the Egyptian soldier was a blow to the Zionist entity and a threat to the security of the Israeli army, destroying all efforts of the Israeli enemy to normalise relations with Arabs and Muslims?" one Twitter user wrote.

Social media users widely shared an image and a video of two separate Egyptian soldiers they claimed to be behind Saturday’s shooting, but this could not be verified by The New Arab.

Hashtags such as "The Egyptian Border Operation" and "Egyptian Martyr" were trending on Twitter since Saturday, with Egyptians and Arabs alike celebrating the shooting.

A caricature was also widely shared depicting an Egyptian soldier with a flag in one hand and a gun in the other stepping on an Israeli soldier beaten to the ground.

The most-often quiet Israeli-Egyptian frontier has witnessed ambushes and rocket attacks in the past decade, where military personnel and militants have died on both sides.