Israel returns body of Egyptian policeman who killed Israeli soldiers

Friends and family mourn Sgt Lia Ben-Nun, an Israeli soldier who was killed by an Egyptian policeman near the Israel-Egypt border, during his funeral in Rishon Lezion, Israel (June 4, 2023)

Sergeant Lia Ben-Nun, one of three Israeli soldiers killed, was buried in Rishon Lezion on Sunday

Israel has returned to Egypt the body of an Egyptian policeman who shot dead three Israeli soldiers near the border between the two countries on Saturday.

Media identified the policeman as 22-year-old Mohammed Salah.

Egypt said after the incident that he entered Israel while pursuing drug traffickers, which resulted in a firefight with Israeli soldiers.

But Israel’s prime minister said it was a terrorist attack and demanded a full joint investigation.

A relative and a classmate of Salah told the BBC he was not an extremist.

Two Israeli soldiers – Staff Sergeant Uri Iluz, 20, and Sergeant Lia Ben-Nun, 19 – stationed in a remote location along the border were shot dead early Saturday morning, according to the IDF. . Their bodies were discovered after a senior officer was unable to contact them by radio.

After a search operation, the attacker was surrounded and there was a shooting. The third soldier – Staff Sergeant Ohad Dahan, 20 – was killed along with the attacker, who the IDF said was an Egyptian policeman.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Sunday, “Israel has sent a clear message to the Egyptian government. We hope that the joint investigation will be comprehensive and thorough.

“We will update procedures and methods of operations as well as measures to minimize smuggling and ensure that tragic terrorist attacks like this do not happen again.”

Israeli media cited a preliminary investigation that the policeman entered Israel using a closed emergency door in the border fence, which was a few hundred meters from the guard post of Staff Sergeant Iluz and the Sergeant Ben-Nun.

After the policeman was killed, Israeli soldiers found he was carrying six magazines for his rifle, as well as two combat knives and a Koran, they added.

Reports also said Egyptian officials told their Israeli counterparts in meetings that the attacker was a “rogue” officer who acted on his own after becoming radicalized.

Egyptian authorities have not commented on the reports or confirmed the identity of the policeman, but a relative of Mohammed Salah and a member of his unit told BBC News Arabic on Monday that family members and friends were being held for interviewed by investigators.

The relative denied that Salah was radicalized and suggested he might have wanted to avenge the death of a comrade.

During a period of leave last month, Salah had expressed his anger at the “silence over the killing of one of his military friends by Israeli soldiers during his military service at the border”, they said. He had also complained about the army’s rejection of a request for a medical exemption, they added.

It is unclear which alleged incident the parent was referring to.

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