Three Israeli soldiers were killed in a major incident at the Egyptian border on Saturday morning.
The bodies of two soldiers, a man and a woman, were found around 8:30 a.m. local time; the third soldier, a man, was killed in a firefight during the resulting manhunt.
It happened inside Israeli territory and it is believed to have happened at close range. The dead shooter was confirmed to be an Egyptian policeman.
Hours earlier, around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, a major cross-border drug smuggling operation was foiled by Israeli security in the same area, near Nitzana.
About $400,000 worth of contraband was seized – it is still unclear if the two incidents are related. An investigation is underway.
Following reports of gunfire around 6 a.m., the bodies of the Israeli soldiers were discovered at a guard post after they failed to respond to radio calls.
A gunman was identified, surrounded and killed – Israeli soldiers were also injured during the operation.
Israeli military officers say they are in “full coordination” with the Egyptian authorities, and that it is “ongoing and good”. There is no suggestion that the Egyptian army was involved.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held a security assessment with the IDF Chief of Staff and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed on the events.
Although the two countries have fought wars in the past, relations have been reasonably good in recent years since the signing of a peace accord in 1979. It has been a decade since the last Israeli death along the border.
Israel has built a large border fence over the past decade to control migration from Africa and prevent infiltration by Islamic State militants.
Despite tight security, smugglers routinely attempt to smuggle drugs, weapons and other illegal goods into Israel – one smuggler was shot and killed by Israeli forces in an incident last year.