(Times of Israel) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the aftermath of the slaying of three Israel Defence Forces soldiers by an Egyptian policeman who crossed the border.
According to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office, Sissi expressed his “deep condolences” over the attack and committed to a “joint and exhaustive investigation”.
However, a spokesman for the Egyptian presidential palace did not mention an expression of condolences, simply saying that the conversation “addressed the shooting incident at the Egyptian-Israel border that led to the deaths of border security personnel”.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel had informed Egypt it expected a full investigation into the killing of the three soldiers.
“Israel sent a clear message to the Egyptian government: We expect the joint investigation to be exhaustive and thorough,” he said in remarks opening the weekly cabinet meeting.
“This is part of the important security cooperation between us, which has existed to the benefit of both countries for years.”
The three Israeli soldiers killed by an Egyptian policeman in attacks on the border on Saturday morning were named by the IDF as Staff Sgt. Ohad Dahan, Sgt. Lia Ben Nun and Staff Sgt. Ori Yitzhak Iluz. Iluz, 20, from the northern city of Tzfat, and Ben Nun, 19, from Rishon Lezion served as combat soldiers in the Bardelas Battalion. Dahan, 20, from the southern city of Ofakim, served in the Caracal Battalion.
They were posthumously promoted from the ranks of sergeant to staff sergeant and corporal to sergeant, respectively.
There are five mixed-gender infantry units within the IDF’s Border Defence Corps, which is responsible for defending Israel’s borders with Jordan, Egypt, as well as the West Bank security barrier. The Bardelas and Caracal battalions are tasked with the Egyptian border.
The circumstances of the incidents, which occurred between Mount Sagi and Mount Harif in the Negev desert, were under investigation by the military, including how the gunman – 22-year-old Egyptian policeman Mohamed Salah Ibrahim – managed to infiltrate Israel from Egypt and remain undetected for several hours before and after the initial attack.
According to IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, Ben Nun and Iluz began a 12-hour shift together at 9pm on Friday night at a military post on the Egyptian border. After the soldiers did not answer calls on the radio on Saturday morning, an officer reached the scene and discovered the pair dead in separate areas of the post. Hagari said the IDF believed they were killed at around 6 or 7am.
Several hours later, shortly before noon, the Egyptian policeman attacked troops who were scanning the area. During the clash, Dahan was killed and a non-commissioned officer was lightly wounded. The gunman was killed several minutes later by another group of soldiers, according to the military. According to Arabic-language media reports, Ibrahim was drafted into the Egyptian army in June 2022 and stationed on the Israel border as a policeman.
He was reportedly set to end his service in the near future.
Egyptian reports cited by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster said Ibrahim had complained several times about his military service, including recently, and had gone absent without leave for 18 days at one point.
The reports said Ibrahim had suffered mental distress following the death of a comrade and felt the issue had not been taken seriously. One of Ibrahim’s friends claimed he was trying to get a medical exemption from his service due to physical problems, according to the reports cited by Kan.
Ibrahim is believed by the IDF to have acted alone in the deadly attack. Egypt has sought to distance itself from the policeman, with Egyptian officials saying they had been unaware of his intentions, according to Kan.
Meanwhile, thousands turned out to pay their final respects to the three soldiers. Ben Nun’s sister, Ofir, eulogised Lia, describing her as “a ray of sunshine”.
“I can’t digest that she won’t come back, what she went through,” said Ofir, who said Ben Nun loved her army service and was “proud” to serve.
In Ofakim, where Dahan was laid to rest, his girlfriend Dana cried out: “How could you leave me like this with all of our plans – you promised me that we would be forever, and now what? Now, I am left alone.”
Iluz’s father, Shai Iluz, declared: “I’m proud of you, I love you, I’m proud that you chose me to be your father. I’m proud of everything you’ve been for us and we all ask you for forgiveness.”