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The facts of history tell us why an Egyptian policeman killed 3 Israeli soldiers

June 14, 2023 at 3:39 pm

Soldiers march ahead of the coffin of Staff Sergeant Ori Izhak Iluz, one of three Israeli soldiers killed in the cross-border incident with Egypt, on June 4, 2023 [JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images]

A senior delegation from the Israeli military travelled to Cairo on Sunday to take part in a joint investigation with Egyptian army officials to find out why Egyptian border policeman Mohamed Salah Ibrahim, 22, decided to shoot and kill three Israeli soldiers before being killed himself.

The Israeli delegation included the Commander of the Southern Region, Major General Eliezer Toldano; the head of the International Relations Brigade, Brigadier General Avi Deverin; and the head of the Operational Brigade in the Intelligence Division, known only as “Brigadier General G”.

“Both sides expressed their commitment to an in-depth investigation and uncovering the truth,” said the Israel Defence Forces. This was a deadly incident on the border between two states exchanging ambassadors and living in peace since 1979, added the IDF.

Hours after the incident, the Egyptian media reported claims that Ibrahim suffered from psychological disorders due to the death of one of his comrades. There were also claims that he had problems socialising due to growing up as an orphan, and reports of frequent complaints about his military service. The media tended to focus on the good relationship between the ruling elites in Cairo and Israel.

READ: Soldiers disciplined after deadly border attack

Adopting the same approach, the Israeli media republished the claims about the alleged difficult life of the young policeman, and concentrated on the condolences expressed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his aides to Israel and its leaders, as well as the families of the soldiers who were killed.

The authorities in Egypt, though, also detained Ibrahim’s family members pending investigations, tried to keep his name secret and prevented a public funeral procession for him.

I do not think that much effort is needed to understand the reason for the shooting. Egyptians have a long history with the Zionist occupation state and have no reason to like it or its soldiers and citizens, even if they do meet on certain occasions, or if the rulers of both countries meet in apparent harmony with each other.

History reveals a lot for us to consider. On 29 May 1948, for example, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 50 calling on the warring parties in Palestine – the Zionist terror gangs and Arab armies – to stop fighting for four weeks. The Egyptians, especially the army, felt that the Council betrayed them after it had seen Egyptian soldiers led by Lieutenant Ahmad Abdul Aziz entering Jerusalem and raising the Egyptian flag.

Then, on 26 July 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, the vital waterway for cargo ships and oil tankers heading for Western Europe from the Gulf and beyond. This prompted an invasion of Egypt by a tripartite alliance of Britain, France and Israel, who occupied the area on both sides of the canal.

On 5 June 1967, Israeli occupation forces launched a coordinated attack on Egypt and destroyed around 90 per cent of the Egyptian air force on the ground. The Israeli forces occupied the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, which was administered by Egypt; the West Bank and East Jerusalem run by Jordan; and the Syrian Golan Heights.

According to a report by Associated Press in 1995, Israeli occupation soldiers killed hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war in June 1967. Those responsible went on to become senior commanders of the IDF and, it was claimed, the faces of peace.

Then, in 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was involved in a war to stir-up stagnant relations with Israel in order to end up with normalisation of ties and a peace deal in 1979. The Egyptian army was betrayed by its leadership; it could have advanced across Sinai and entered Jerusalem, but the orders from above were to go just a few kilometres after crossing the Suez Canal, and then stop. Almost 8,000 Egyptian soldiers lost their lives.

Ignoring or forgetting all of that betrayal and bad blood is impossible. Egyptian soldiers who have been ordered by their political leadership to protect Israel despite all that has happened before will never be able to accept the Israeli occupation. Egyptians who have been watching the daily Israeli aggression against their Palestinian brothers will never accept becoming guardians of the Israeli occupation.

More than 90 per cent of Egyptians are Muslims. They all regard Al-Aqsa Mosque as their third most holy place on earth. The remaining 10 per cent of Egyptians are Christians for whom the holiest Christian religious sites in Palestine are dear to their hearts. Both Islamic and Christian religious sites are being desecrated every day by Israeli occupation soldiers and illegal settlers; how can the people of Egypt ever have any love for Israel?

READ: Defence minister praises IDF strength after deadly border incident

When Egyptians had a freely-elected president following the 25 January Revolution, they forced the Israeli ambassador to leave their country and closed the Embassy of Israel in Cairo. The truth is clear, and I am sure that the political elite on both sides know this very well, but they are look desperately for a way to impose their narratives about the alleged harmony between the two nations.

“I will build a monument for the Egyptian policeman who killed three Israeli occupation troops,” said the president of Egypt’s Zamalek Football Club immediately after the name of the Egyptian policeman was revealed. Mortada Mansour also named a sports park after Ibrahim.

The facts of history tell us all we need to know why a 22-year-old Egyptian policeman took it upon himself to kill some Israeli soldiers. Anything to the contrary, will just be a whitewash.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.