IDF to probe terror killing of three Israeli soldiers by Egyptian policeman

IDF Chief Halevi ordered the results of the investigation to be presented quickly and ordered a broader investigation of the border defense approach.

 View of road 10, on the border with Egypt, which opened up for visitors today, for the Jewish holiday of Passover. April 7, 2023.  (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
View of road 10, on the border with Egypt, which opened up for visitors today, for the Jewish holiday of Passover. April 7, 2023.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

The results of the investigation into the killing of three IDF soldiers at the Israeli-Egyptian border early on Saturday will be presented in one week's time, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi announced on Sunday.

He additionally ordered to carry out a comprehensive investigation of the defense strategy and approach regarding the defense of borders with non-enemy countries like Egypt.

A senior IDF official said that Halevi had decided to turn the probe regarding the incident into a flagship investigation, Walla reported. "In the investigations, as time goes by, more painful details are revealed. I would not be surprised if heads fly in the Southern Command," he estimated. He added that a preliminary investigation shows substation gaps between standing orders and what happened on the ground at the border with Egypt.

Two IDF soldiers were shot and killed early on Saturday morning, the IDF confirmed early on Saturday afternoon, while an additional third soldier was killed by the same terrorist several hours later in an exchange of fire.

The soldiers were identified as Sgt. Lia Ben-Nun, St.-Sgt. Uri Itzhak Ilouz, and St.-Sgt. Ohad Dahan.

Armoured Israeli military vehicle driving along border with Egypt (credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Armoured Israeli military vehicle driving along border with Egypt (credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Ben-Nun and Ilouz were found lifeless at an IDF guard post sometime after 6 a.m. by members of their team who had been sent to check on their wellbeing after they failed to respond to their radios, an initial investigation has shown. 

Following the discovery of their bodies, additional reinforcements arrived and a search operation was carried out in order to locate the perpetrator, who was believed to have infiltrated Israel from across the border at some point during the night.

The terrorist was later confirmed by the IDF to be an Egyptian police officer. The IDF added that it and the Egyptian military were conducting a thorough investigation.

Shortly after midday on Saturday, the IDF confirmed an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and the terrorist, who was killed in the exchange.

During the operation, Dahan was shot and killed, and an additional soldier was lightly injured. The injured soldier was hit in his hand by shrapnel but was released from the hospital in the late afternoon.

The Egyptian army later said in a statement that he was chasing drug smugglers, adding that "during the chase, the security man was involved in an exchange of fire that caused the deaths of three Israeli soldiers."

They did not add how the police officer ended up in a shootout with IDF soldiers when he should have been chasing drug smugglers.

IDF and Egypt coordinate response to shooting

At around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, the IDF thwarted a drug smuggling operation in the same area as the shooting, seizing NIS 1.5 million worth of drugs. The smuggling attempt was carried out with the help of ladders, and the IDF is investigating the possibility that the two incidents were connected.

The IDF is continued to scan the areas close to the border for additional threats due to concerns that the terrorist had not acted alone and had coordinated with people inside of Israel, an IDF spokesperson confirmed during a press briefing.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, along with other security officials, held a situational assessment early on Saturday afternoon in light of the ongoing developments, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received regular updates.

"I'm pained by the death of the three soldiers at the Egyptian border incident," said Gallant on Twitter. "IDF soldiers did their jobs with dedication, but the incident ended with terrible results. My family is with the families in their most difficult hour."

"The lethal incident on the Egyptian border over Shabbat was severe and irregular and will be investigated to the end," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "I would like to praise the forces who strived for contact and killed the terrorist. Together with the people of Israel, I offer condolences to the families of Sgt. Lia Ben-Nun, St.-Sgt. Ohad Dahan and the third soldier whose name has not yet been published."

"Such a sad Shabbat," said President Isaac Herzog on Saturday evening. "We were horrified by the report of the death of three IDF soldiers in incidents this morning on the Egyptian border. There are no words to describe the pain and the loss. Together with all the people, I send sincere condolences to the families and share in their loss at this difficult time. We will guard their memories and continue to guard our borders diligently."

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called it a "difficult Shabbat" in a statement on Saturday evening.

"Three soldiers who left home to protect the State of Israel were killed while doing their work by a low murderer," he said. "I'm hurting together with the citizens of Israel and send condolences to the families that lost the dearest people to them. The people of Israel love you, hug you, cry with you, and feel your pain."

This is a developing story.