Two Bedouins of the Azazmah tribe from the Negev have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in an attempt to smuggle drugs across the Egyptian border on Wednesday, during which two IDF soldiers were wounded. The two have also been charged with attempted murder.
On Wednesday, a company commander from the IDF's Caracal Battalion, who spotted suspicious figures on the Egyptian side of the border close to the security fence, approached the border. When the commander, Captain Or Ben Yehuda, arrived at the site with a communications soldier, drug smugglers opened fire at her from three different locations.
Ben Yehuda returned fire, even managing to empty her magazine despite the incoming gunfire and sustaining wounds to her upper body. The smugglers also fired an anti-tank missile at the commander and second soldier.
The remand of the first suspects was extended by one day. The remand of the second detainee, Soilam Aluj, was extended by three days.
A police representative said that no drugs were found at the scene where the attackers fired guns and an anti-tank missile at the Israeli soldiers.
Police confirmed that one of the suspects had called for an ambulance from his cellphone. Judge George Amorai of the Be'er Sheva Magistrate Court said that there was reasonable suspicion linking the suspect to the crime attributed to him, but that the police must undertake investigative actions.
One of the suspects suffered light injuries in the shooting and is still hospitalized at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. During his investigation n Tuesday by the Shin Bet and the police, it was revealed that the suspect has a recorded history of drug smuggling activities.
The suspect's lawyer, Ahmed Watad, said that his client denies the allegations against him. "He was near his home and called an ambulance from a friend's phone. He was arrested because of his name and past. In the coming days, it will become clear that he has no hand in the incident."
The second suspect will be brought before court for a remand hearing in several days. His lawyers, Shalom Piniya and Eyal Hadar, said that he had no connection to the incident and was arrested only because he called an ambulance after his friend had been wounded.
Meanwhile, the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem reported that Caracal Company Commander, Captain Or Ben-Yehuda, who is being treated in the hospital's Orthopedic Ward, is in light condition.
IDF officials initially estimated that the shooting incident, in which Ben-Yehuda and another soldier were injured, was a terror attack. However, an inquiry conducted in conjunction with the Egyptian army revealed that the attack "was a violent drugs smuggling attempt."
Egyptian security sources said Egyptian forces later clashed with several gunmen who had likely attacked the Israeli border patrol. No casualties were reported in the confrontation and there was no immediate comment from the Egyptian military.
Security concerns and an influx of tens of thousands of African migrants prompted Israel to erect the fence, a 250 km (160 mile) long barrier that runs from the Red Sea port of Eilat to the Palestinian Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean.
The fence was completed in 2012. Earlier that year, attacks by Islamist militants operating from Sinai killed an Israeli soldier and a civilian who was working on it.
Islamist militants are active in the peninsula, which borders southern Israel, though assaults across the fenced frontier are rare.
Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, has been trying to curtail Islamist militant operations in Sinai. Wednesday's attack occurred about half-way between Eilat and the Gaza Strip, the army said.
Reuters contributed to this report.