Migrants Wounded by Israeli Army Fire While Crossing Egypt Border

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The Israel-Egypt border. Credit: Eliyahu Kershkowitz

An Israel Defense Forces unit fired at infiltrators crossing the fence on the Israel-Egypt border on Saturday night, wounding three men, one of whom remains hospitalized at the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.

The IDF provided various versions as to what happened at the border that led to the wounding of the men, apparently Sudanese asylum seekers. First it was reported that a number of suspects were injured by the fence during the crossing and evacuated to Soroka. Afterwards it was reported that the circumstances of the injuries were being checked, and that apparently the men were wounded by Egyptian police fire. Only Wednesday, after an investigation conducted at the site by the new commander of the 80th Division, Brig. Gen. Rafi Milo, did the army report that the men were actually wounded by an IDF force in the area.

According to the army, about 15 people arrived at the border fence in the Kadesh Barnea area Saturday night, accompanied by an armed man.

According to an officer in the Adom Division, when Egyptian policemen noticed the group and tried to prevent them from crossing into Israeli territory, the armed man opened fire at the policemen. An IDF force that arrived at the spot noticed a number of people crossing the fence, and carried out the standard procedure for arresting suspects, including firing into the air, and later, firing at the men’s legs.

The officer said that since the infiltrators did not heed the warnings of the military force, the soldiers fired in their direction in order to stop them. He added that the military investigation had determined that the shooting was carried out properly and according to IDF procedures.

Of the 15 migrants who crossed the fence that evening, three were wounded in the legs by IDF fire and evacuated for medical care. Those who were not wounded were transferred to the Saharonim detention facility. The wounded men were treated at Soroka, and two of them were later released. One is still hospitalized in the orthopedic department.

The IDF said that it treats every fence crossing as a “hostile terror incident,” although in this case there were clear signs that the infiltrators were migrants. They arrived in a large group, in the evening, and the armed man who was with them at the crossing did not open fire in the direction of the Israeli border, and didn’t cross the fence with them. The army also admitted that the armed man was in effect accompanying the migrants to the fence and was not harmed by the gunfire.

The various IDF versions regarding the circumstances of the wounding of the migrants on the Israel-Egyptian border raise a number of questions about the incident and whether there was an attempt to conceal it.

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) asked a direct parliamentary question of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, demanding an investigation into the shooting. Rozin also asked whether the gunfire that was described is standard procedure in this case, and requested an explanation.

The IDF Spokesperson's unit said in an official response issued Thursday that "in the event in question the suspect arrest protocol was employed against a cell of infiltrators commanded by an armed [man] that were trying to cross the border into Israel. During the event a number of infiltrators were wounded as a result of the gunfire and were taken to the hospital by Israeli forces. An in-depth investigation was launched into the incident.

"This type of event is a complex and demands an in-depth probe with all the forces involved. In wake of the debriefing that took place after the event, additional details became clear. This is not a change in [the IDF's] account, but rather new details that emerged in wake of the investigation," they said.

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