Three Israeli soldiers have been killed in a major incident on the Egyptian border on Saturday morning.
The bodies of two soldiers, a man and a woman, were found around 8.30am local time; the third soldier, a man, was killed in a firefight during the resulting manhunt.
It happened inside Israeli territory and is believed to have happened at close range. The dead gunman has been confirmed as an Egyptian policeman.
A few hours earlier, around 2.30am on Saturday, a major cross-border drug smuggling operation was thwarted by Israeli security in the same area, near Nitzana.
Around $400,000 worth of contraband was seized – it’s still unclear whether the two incidents are linked. An investigation is ongoing.
Following reports of shots fired around 6am, the bodies of the Israeli soldiers were discovered at a guard post after they failed to answer radio calls.
A gunman was identified, encircled and killed – Israeli soldiers were also injured during the operation.
Israeli military officers say they are in “full coordination” with Egyptian authorities, and it is “ongoing and good”. There is no suggestion the Egyptian military was involved.
The Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant held a security assessment with the IDF chief of staff and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been kept informed of events.
Although the two countries have fought wars in the past, relations have been reasonably good in recent years since a peace agreement was signed in 1979. It’s a decade since the last Israeli fatality along the border.
Israel has constructed a large border fence over the past decade, to control migration from Africa and prevent infiltration by Islamic State militants.
Despite high security, smugglers regularly try to get drugs, weapons and other illegal goods into Israel – one smuggler was shot and killed by Israeli forces in an incident last year.