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Egypt soldier killed in clash with Israel forces at Rafah border

Egypt soldier killed in clash with Israel forces at Rafah border
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An Egyptian soldier was killed in a clash with Israeli forces at the Rafah border crossing, a potentially major escalation in tensions between the two nations.

Egypt’s military confirmed a border guard died on Monday. The Israel Defence Forces said “a shooting incident occurred on the Egyptian border,” without giving any more detail. “The incident is under review and discussions are being held with the Egyptians.”

Israel’s Army Radio said Egyptian troops first opened fire at Israeli soldiers at the border post between Gaza and Egypt.

Two Egyptian security sources told Reuters that an Egyptian soldier stationed on a watchtower had reacted to seeing an armoured vehicle carrying Israeli troops cross a boundary line near the border while the soldiers pursued and killed several Palestinians.

The border fence between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in Rafah, southern Gaza. Photo: EPA-EFE

The soldier opened fire and Israeli forces fired back, killing him, the sources said, sparking an exchange of gunfire between the two sides. Several Israeli soldiers were wounded and the force fell back, and one Egyptian was wounded, the sources said.

Later on Monday, Egypt warned against compromising the security and safety of its security forces, a high-level source told Egypt’s state-linked Al Qahera News, adding that Egypt would take necessary measures to prevent the incident from recurring.

Israeli troops started operations around the outskirts of Rafah, which lies in southern Gaza, early this month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will attack the city because it’s the last bastion of Hamas, an Iran-backed Islamist group, and several thousand of its fighters are lodged there.

The US and other countries fear mass casualties among the Palestinian civilians in Rafah and have urged Israel to cancel an assault.

Those concerns were only heightened on Sunday evening when an Israeli air strike killed at least 45 Palestinians at a camp for displaced people in the north-west of Rafah.

Israel acknowledged the death of dozens of people in the strike, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “a tragic mistake” in an address to the Knesset.

Governments across the world were quick to condemn Israel for the strike. French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged”, while the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said he was “horrified”.

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip. Photo: Israeli Army via AFP

The US and others have also voiced concerns about an Israeli attack on Rafah worsening ties with Egypt. The two Middle Eastern countries signed a peace deal in 1979, which is seen as crucial to Israel’s security.

Egypt has been highly vocal of the war in Gaza and consistently called on Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

Security incidents between the two countries have been rare.

In October 2023, two weeks after the start of the war in Gaza, Israel said one of its tanks had accidentally hit an Egyptian position near the border with Gaza, and Egypt said several Egyptian border guards sustained minor injuries.

In June 2023, three Israeli soldiers and an Egyptian security officer were killed in a clash at the border.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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