A 15-year-old Arab-Israeli worker was shot dead by the Egyptian Armed Forces on Tuesday while repairing an Israeli security fence in the Negev Desert.
The cross-border shooting took place in the Israeli town of Mount Harif, and the shots were fired from the Egyptian border zone of Kontala. The victim was identified as Nimr Abu Amar, a resident of the Bedouin town of Laqiya, and his death has been labeled accidental.
An anonymous Egyptian security official told the Associated Press that a border guard mistook the teenager for a migrant attempting to illegally cross the border into Israel and opened fire. The official added that Egypt had notified Israeli authorities that the killing was a mistake.
The Israeli news portal YNet News reported that the reasons behind the shooting “remain unclear” and investigations are ongoing, however preliminary results have suggested that Abu Amar’s death was not the result of a targeted attack or a smuggling attempt, “but rather as a result of a misunderstanding.”
Citing Israeli Defense Ministry officials, YNet and The Times of Israel reported that Abu Amar may have been employed by a civilian subcontractor “to perform maintenance work on the fence,” or that he may have been “brought to the work site by his family members.” The Israeli Defense Ministry is reportedly “still investigating how the minor came to be employed at the work site.”
According to Bassem Abu Amar, the teenager’s father, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) did not sufficiently guard those performing maintenance on the fence in the area, home to an Israeli military base. He blamed Egyptian border guards for his son’s death, and the IDF for having “abandoned him,” according to The Times of Israel.
As of Wednesday, Egypt’s state-owned media had not commented on the incident, with privately owned media outlets largely citing Israeli newspapers’ coverage.
Egypt has improved diplomatic relations with Israel since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed office in 2014. Since then Egypt’s Armed Forces have demolished hundreds of residences in the border town of Rafah to create a buffer zone between North Sinai and the Gaza Strip, in hopes of decreasing arms smuggling.