Three drug-smuggling suspects were caught near the border with Egypt yesterday morning. One man was shot dead trying to flee the police and the other two were injured and hospitalized in Be'er Sheva, with one suspect escaping later in the day.

Some 800 kilograms of marijuana, the largest quantity ever seized on the Egyptian border, was found in the suspects' possession. They intended to smuggle it into Israel, police said.

An undercover Border Police unit ambushed the suspects, who were traveling by camel near the Mount Harif area along the border. When the police called on the suspects - Israeli Bedouin - to stop, they ran for it. The police gave chase, firing at the suspects and fatally injuring one, who died shortly thereafter

The other two suspects were taken to the Soroka Medical Center by military helicopter, accompanied by a police paramedic. One was hospitalized with moderate injuries. The other, who was said to be lightly injured, was taken to another ward. He took advantage of a moment in which he was not accompanied by hospital security guards and escaped.

"There must have been some mistake, but we'll catch the suspect soon," said one of the officers who captured the alleged smugglers. "The Border Police have set up an examination team [to probe the incident]. We couldn't send more than one of our men on the helicopter. We will learn the lessons from this case," he said.

"It's our biggest capture ever. We have never encountered such a large quantity of narcotics. It's a major achievement in our fight against drug smuggling across the border...we knew they were supposed to carry drugs but not such amounts," he said.

The marijuana was taken to the Dimona police station.

The police intend to ask the court to extend the remand of the suspect who is still hospitalized. The suspect's attorney, Yossi Lynn, said his client denies the suspicions, that he was on a hike in the area and suddenly found himself in the line of fire. "He has nothing to do with the smuggling," the lawyer said.