Six Sudanese Migrants Killed Approaching Egyptian-Israeli Border

Unclear whether security forces or smugglers shot asylum seekers.

Sudanese migrant worker Mohammed Yusef working on the construction of a barrier on the border between Israel and Egypt along Israel's Highway 12, a desert road north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, in this February 15, 2012 file photo.

Egyptian security officials say six Sudanese migrants were killed and 17 wounded during a gun battle between Egyptian security forces and smugglers as they tried to illegally enter Israel from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

The officials said Monday that smugglers transferred the migrants in pick-up trucks and dropped them off close to the border south of the town of Rafah before firing at border forces to allow the migrants to cross into Israel.

The smugglers then fled, leaving the dead and wounded migrants, who were taken to Rafah hospital for treatment. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

They did not disclose whether security forces or the smugglers shot the migrants, but observers familiar with the situation said they suspected an Egyptian force in command of the area fired at them.

Egyptian authorities have striven recently to prevent asylum seekers from approaching the border fence. They have had clashes with smugglers, particularly local Bedouin who make a living off human trafficking, on several occasions.

Last week 15 Sudanese were killed and eight wounded trying to illegally cross into Israel.