Egypt, on Sunday, had still not revealed the identity of its border policeman who shot and killed three IDF soldiers after penetrating the border into Israel on Friday. The "member of security services," as he was described by the Egyptians, who was killed by IDF troops, was stationed on the border with Israel, and was part of a border security force that is separate from the Egyptian military.
On Sunday, families brought the three fatalities in the attack to rest in funerals held in northern, central and southern Israel.
Egypt's account of the incident was that the assailant crossed the border and was caught in an exchange of fire, which resulted in his death along with the three Israeli soldiers. The authorities in Cairo did not claim any responsibility and did not mention his attack on the two IDF troops he shot first before encountering the Israeli force, nor did they issue any public apology or the details of his deployment.
The Egyptian forces deployed along the border with Israel are part of Egypt's internal security directorate. The terms of the peace agreement signed with Israel in 1979, stipulate that no military personnel can be deployed to the Sinai except on a narrow strip east of the Suez Canal. Over the past decade, when Egypt requested to bring forces in, on special occasions, to combat ISIS forces in northern Sinai, Israel has always consented.
The Egyptian border guards are not only separate from their country's military, they also have far inferior equipment at their disposal. They do not have armored vehicles and travel in SUVs and possess light-arms weapons only. When Egypt sets out to fight the ISIS cells, they bring in the ground and air forces of the military, in coordination with Israel.
According to reports in Egypt over the years, the border guards are mostly residents of peripheral counties in the Sinai and often come from impoverished backgrounds.
Egypt's security services never officially announced how to join the border guard forces but discussion in online forums and testimonies from Egyptian civilians on social media indicate they try to identify people who are not themselves nor are their families affiliated with criminal or terrorist elements and are not religious zealots.
The Egyptians Defense Ministry's website says candidates must have an average of at least 60 out of 100 in their matriculation exams. They look for people with a high school degree at the very least so that they would be able to comprehend the sensitivities on the other side of the border and many of their conscripts reside near it or in northern Sinai and are relatively new to the force with under one year of deployment since being inducted.
"Egypt needs Israel "in its efforts to combat terror in the Sinai that was responsible for the death of some 3,200 Egyptian soldiers since 2013, for the downing of a Russian airliner and for severe damage to tourism. Israel needs Egypt to prevent terror groups from entrenching near its borders and for maintaining stability and calm in the area," Dr. Ofir Winter, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) said.
While Cairo has its own narrative of the Friday event, there are different voices on social media. Some note the lack of clarity in the Egyptian statement and others see the assailant as a hero and attribute conspiracy theories to Israel," he said. "By not revealing his name, Egypt is demonstrating its discomfort and perhaps is attempting to prevent the border policeman from becoming a national hero. The attack shows the possibility of an Egyptian soldier becoming a terrorist must be taken into account," Winter said adding that the authorities must ask themselves how the general public is educated to regard Israel 44 years after a peace treaty was signed.
The Israeli defense establishment was growing convinced that the assailant acted alone and was not sent by any terror organization. The investigation into the deadly incident was still ongoing but there was a growing assessment that he was a devout Jihadist while serving as a border guard.
Egyptian defense officials arrived at the area on Saturday. The IDF on Sunday published a picture of officers of both militaries standing together while a joint probe was underway.