The investigation into the fatal shooting at the Egypt border of IDF soldiers Sergeant Lia Ben-Nun, Staff Sergeant Ori Yitzhak Ilouz, and Staff Sergeant Ohad Dahan revealed that the Egyptian police officer who killed them planned every stage of his actions.
The assailant did not enter through a breach in the fence, nor did he climb over it. Instead, he entered through an emergency opening designated for the passage of forces to the Egyptian side of the border if necessary.
He walked several miles until he reached a point from which he infiltrated Israeli territory, and with one of the two knives he possessed, he cut the security fences at the opening. The police officer also had a Quran in his possession.
The assailant was familiar with the border fence thanks to his role as a regular Egyptian border guard in the area, and he knew exactly where the pair of soldiers he initially fired at was located.
He even prepared a hiding place for himself for the rest of his stay within Israeli territory, deep in the eastern side of the fence, marked by a cluster of rocks for reference. Utilizing the rugged topography of the sector, including undulating terrain and numerous cliffs, the assailant executed his plan.
IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari described the exceptional event in an interview with the Ynet studio.
"This incident occurred in an operational zone where many incidents take place. Even during the night, forces thwarted a drug smuggling operation at 3am, and forces are deployed as part of the efforts to prevent the smuggling. At 4:15am, that was the last time there was contact with the post. Ori was the senior commander at the post, and he made contact with the regional brigade commander. Regular checks need to be conducted every hour. The command arrives in the morning and finds them lifeless. Searches began both within Egyptian territory and within Israel. It should be understood that this is an area where hikers frequent."
Where were the soldiers who were stationed a few hundred feet away? Didn't they hear the gunfire? Did they not attempt to ascertain what had happened? "There were reports of muffled gunfire around 7am. I assume that this is the time when the terrorist actually shoots and kills the male and female soldier at the post - and that certainly needs to be investigated. It's an area where random gunfire incidents occur frequently; it's not uncommon. But I understand that there was a report, so we need to investigate how it was not acted upon promptly."
According to him, "As soon as they realized the soldiers were not alive, a terrorist event was declared, and searches began within Egypt. A drone was deployed and identified a suspicious figure 1.5 kilometers into the territory. The force moved toward that figure - they couldn't just kill it because it might have been Israeli. It opened fire, and from that burst of gunfire, Ohad was killed."
What was the most serious failure in your opinion? "There’s that opening in the fence. I think what's important is the question about operational perception. We might have to change that after that. And perhaps the main issue is the meeting with the two soldiers; we will need to investigate that. After that, there is the point of the encounter - two points where we lost people."
Rear Admiral Hagari also spoke about the cooperation with the Egyptians, saying, "At 9am, the Egyptians informed us that they are missing an officer. We start a joint investigation together. We need to understand how such incidents can be prevented in the future. This is an exceptional event; we have had years of peace."
From the investigation of the incident, Israeli forces successfully thwarted a drug smuggling operation at around 2:30am. Prior to that, forces were deployed, some in pairs in a tent, as early as 9pm as part of advance preparation.
Saturday at around 4:15am was the last contact with the two soldiers who were stationed in the post, and about five hours later, around 9am, they were found dead by their commander. The two did not get the chance to fire back.
A drone identified the terrorist when he was one and a half kilometers deep into Israeli territory. Ground forces were deployed to intercept him, leading to the shootout that led to the death of Dahan and the Egyptian officer.
According to information received by Ynet and its sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth, at this stage, the pursuit was led by Brigadier General Itzik Cohen, the brigade commander, and Lieutenant Colonel Ido Sa'ad, the regional division commander.
The terrorist had reached nearly two kilometers from the border, making his way toward an IDF officer training base when he was intercepted by Israeli forces.
Brigadier General Cohen requested air support, but combat helicopters took a long time to arrive, so he decided to advance and encircle the terrorist without them. The terrorist managed to kill Dahan in the ensuing gunbattle before being eliminated.