Israeli soldiers fire on gunmen along Egypt’s border

The Israeli military said its forces opened fire on infiltrators while on patrol along the Egyptian border early Tuesday, killing one of them.

“The suspects fired at the soldiers, who returned fire,” a military statement said. “Most of the suspects fled back to Egyptian territory,” except for the one who died in the exchange.

Egyptian security said the shootout involved three Bedouins smuggling tobacco into Israel.

“One armed Bedouin was killed by the Israelis close to Karam Abu Salem crossing … in North Sinai after Israeli soldiers fired at the men,” according to Gen. Saleh Al Masry, head of North Sinai Security, who also said two others escaped.

Border incursions are not unusual along Israel’s border with Egypt.

In August, militants crossed into Israel from Egyptian territory to attack civilian targets.

Eight Israeli citizens were killed in the attacks, which Israel has said were the work of a jihadist group based in Gaza. Responding to the attacks, Israeli troops killed five Egyptian border guards while in pursuit of the militants.

The incident strained relations between the two governments, with Egypt suggesting it was recalling its ambassador in protest.

After an investigation, Israel apologized in October for the deaths of the Egyptian policemen. A rare statement of regret was issued in the days following the shootings.

The incident also follows this week’s reopening of an Israeli highway that runs along the border. The road had been closed for safety reasons since the August attacks.

“Wide-scale work was carried out in order to strengthen the defenses of the road,” the Israeli military said to CNN.

Following the revolution in Egypt and the subsequent increase of instability in the nation’s Sinai peninsula, the Israeli government has accelerated the pace of construction of a steel border fence that will run the 260 kilometers (162 miles) of shared border.

Originally proposed as a method of stemming the flow of illegal immigration into Israel, the $350 million fence is increasingly being regarded in Israel as a necessary defense against lawlessness and what Israel says is the growing influence of radical Isamist groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.