Israeli Teen Killed by Gunfire on Egypt Border

The 15-year-old boy was repairing the border fence with family members, who are Defense Ministry contractors. The foreman says an Egyptian policeman fired at the teen, after mistaking him for a smuggler.

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The Israel-Egypt border.
Nimr Bassem Abu Amar, 15, was killed on the Israel-Egypt border.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz

An Israeli teen was killed by gunfire near the border with Egypt at noon on Tuesday. A preliminary investigation suggests that the 15-year-old boy was killed by an Egyptian policeman who apparently mistook him for a smuggler.

Nimr Bassem Abu Amar, 15, was working with his family members, civilian contractors, who were repairing the border fence near Mount Harif on behalf of the Defense Ministry, when they were fired upon. An Israel Air Force helicopter evacuated the boy from the site to hospital, but he succumbed to his wounds.

The foreman said that the workers told him that Egyptian policeman fired at them. The workers were uprooting plants near the fence on the other side of the fence, when Egyptian border police ordered them to head back to the Israeli side. "As they were walking back, one of the officers fired a burst, and he (the boy) was hit by one bullet that entered in the stomach and exited from the back," Nur Nimr told the press outside Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva.

Both the Israeli and the Egyptian armies are investigating the incident. Preliminary findings suggest that Abu Amar was killed by an Egyptian policeman who mistook him for a smuggler, after Israel apparently failed to properly update the Egyptians about the repairs on the border.

The boy's father also spoke to the press, and accused the Defense Ministry of not providing adequate security for the workers. "The soldiers left and only came back when they heard bursts of gunfire," he said. "Even then they didn't respond."

The man, from the bedouin town of Lakiya near Be'er Sheva, said his son has been coming to the site for several days, making coffee for the workers. All the workers were related, hired by a family member who won the fence repair contract.

The incident raises questions on state supervision on contractors tasked with maintenance of Israel's border fences. The Defense Ministry initially said that the company that employed the boy was hired by the main contractor that won the tender. However, later the ministry claimed that the boy only accompanied family members who were employed by the Defense Ministry contractor, as did his family. The ministry said it was looking into the incident.

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said that he will appeal the defense minister and demand the immediate discontinuation of all communication with contractors who employ minors. MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) said: "It's shocking that the Defense Ministry employs children. I intend to hold an urgent discussion on the subject at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."

In September 2012, an Israeli soldier was killed when Egyptian militants opened fire on a group of soldiers securing construction work of the border fence near the same area. Three militants, from the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, which has since pledged allegiance to ISIS, were killed in the ensuing firefight.

In March 2012, two smugglers, one Israeli and the other Egyptian, were killed near the same location.

In February 2015, two people were killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops during a smuggling attempt on the border.

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