Israeli, Egyptian Troops Trade Fire Near Rafah

Latest Developments​

Israeli and Egyptian troops exchanged fire near the southern Gaza border city of Rafah on May 27, killing at least one member of Egypt’s security forces. Both Jerusalem and Cairo said they were investigating the rare incident, which took place as the IDF advanced against Hamas in Rafah, including along the Gaza-Egypt border that abuts the city.

Egyptian officials said there was one fatality without elaborating on the identity of the deceased. Israeli officials did not immediately comment on any casualties. Al Arabiya reported that the incident began when an Egyptian border patrol fired on an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) unit, which shot back, although neither side has yet confirmed these details.

Expert Analysis​

“Almost as soon as it began, Israel and Egypt were trying to put this incident in the rear-view mirror — at least, in terms of public attention. They can ill-afford a flare-up between their forces after months of lip-service Egyptian condemnation of an Israeli counter-terrorist war against their common Hamas enemy, which serves the interests of both countries. But Israel would be wise to demand a thorough Egyptian review of the discipline of what is now a substantially reinforced armored garrison on the Sinai side of the border. It’s worth remembering: Less than a year ago, an Egyptian soldier sneaked across the frontier fence and killed three Israeli soldiers as they stood guard.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Cairo is already under a microscope with the discovery of a Hamas tunnel system into Egypt. This needs to be investigated and reined in fast.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Egypt Strongly Opposed Rafah Operation

For months, Egyptian officials have expressed opposition to an Israeli military operation in Rafah. Cairo has even threatened to downgrade its relationship with Israel more than four decades after it became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979. Despite Cairo’s assurances that it is controlling illicit traffic across the Egypt-Gaza border — it claims to have previously destroyed Hamas’s tunnels into the Sinai peninsula — Israel believes that the border has been Hamas’s lifeline, through which the Iran-backed terrorist group smuggles weapons, materiel, and even its members. Israel revealed on May 17 that its troops discovered 50 smuggling tunnels leading from Rafah to Egypt during IDF operations in the border city.

Recent Incidents at Israeli-Egyptian Border

On June 3, 2023, an Egyptian border guard went rogue and infiltrated the Israeli side of the border, killing three IDF soldiers. In 2014, Sinai-based terrorists fired on Israeli soldiers at the border, wounding two. In 2012, terrorists attempted to infiltrate Israel from Egypt. The ensuing fighting led to the death of one Israeli soldier.

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