Egyptians join funeral of soldier killed by Israelis in Rafah

Border shooting incidents initiated by Egyptian army personnel are mostly viewed by the anti-Israel Egyptian public as heroic acts. [Getty]

On Tuesday morning, hundreds of Egyptians joined the funeral of an army soldier  shot dead a day earlier in an exchange of fire between Egypt’s forces and Israeli troops on the border with the besieged Palestinian Rafah City, an incident marred by contradictory reports.

Mourners were seen carrying the coffin of 22-year-old Abdullah Ramadan, wrapped in the Egyptian flag, joined by many others while chanting, “There is no God but God… God loves the martyr….God is great” in the Fayoum province, southwest of the capital, Cairo.

Local news outlets reported that an Egyptian army major represented the military at the funeral, though no official military funeral was held for the deceased.

Social media activists claimed that Ramadan’s family was denied the right to a military funeral.

The New Arab could not reach the Egyptian army spokesman for comment on the claims of the border clash or the funeral at the time of publication.

Ramadan was engaged to be married upon the completion of his two-year military service in September this year. The late soldier acquired a secondary education degree from a local technical school. He is the eldest son of his parents, survived by them and two brothers and a sister.

On Monday, Egyptian military personnel, stationed on the border with the Palestinian Rafah in north-eastern North Sinai province, reportedly exchanged fire with Israeli army troops, with unconfirmed news that at least seven Israelis were injured and five others killed.

“The Egyptian [army] is conducting an investigation by the relevant authorities regarding the incident of gunfire in the border area of Rafah, which led to the martyrdom of one of the personnel assigned to the protection duty,” read a statement by the official military spokesman hours after the incident.

Shortly afterwards, the Israeli Defence Forces released another vague statement, saying, “Israel had been in touch with the Egyptian side to coordinate investigations into the shooting incident.”

The circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear, whereas the Egyptian and Israeli narratives did not clarify which side had shot first.

Unconfirmed news reports said that the Israeli Military Censor had initially restricted reporting on the incident before later lifting the ban.

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the Arabic-language sister publication of TNA, reported on Tuesday, citing Israeli news outlets as claiming both Egypt and Israel agreed to maintain a status quo and downplay the incident.

Monday’s shooting is believed to have been triggered by the Israeli airstrike on a “safe zone” displacement camp at a late hour on the previous day, killing at least 40 people, some burned alive. At least 35,000 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli ongoing onslaught on Gaza that erupted in October last year, most of them were women and children.

The incident is likely to escalate the already tense Egyptian-Israeli relations triggered by Israel’s ground operations in Rafah as it seized the Rafah Border Crossing with Gaza earlier this month.

Despite a technical state of peace with Israel since the late 1970s, the Egyptian public has been at loggerheads with their country’s successive regimes over normalisation.

Diplomatically and commercially, Cairo treated Israel as a friendly country with strong ties in several areas, but tensions have skyrocketed after Israel launched its war on Gaza last October.  

The Rafah crossing with Egypt is located along the Salah Al-Din (Philadelphi) corridor, a buffer zone controlled by Egypt.

Alongside the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing with Israel, Rafah is a key lifeline for humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip, which is now facing catastrophic levels of hunger according to the UN.

In June last year, 23-year-old Egyptian soldier Mohamed Salah was killed after he had crossed the border with Israel and shot dead three Israeli troops. Such incidents are mostly viewed by the anti-Israel Egyptian public as heroic.    

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