A Palestinian security officer in Gaza was killed and another was injured when an unidentified assailant blew himself up near the Egypt-Gaza border at dawn on Thursday.
Spokesperson of the Gaza Ministry of Interior and National Security Iyad al-Bazm said that a “security incident” occurred early Thursday morning near the southern borders of the Gaza Strip, when two unidentified men, coming from the Egyptian side of the border, approached the two security officers station on the Gaza side of the border.
According to al-Bazm, the security forces called for the two men to stop, after which one of the men blew himself up.
Al-Bazm identified the slain security officer as Nidal al-Jaafari. However, the identity of the injured security officer remained unknown.
Meanwhile, the conditions of the two assailants also remained unknown.
Al-Bazm said that security forces had started investigations into the incident, adding that prior to the attack, the ministry of interior had set up a “buffer zone” on the Palestinian side of the border with Egypt “to prevent militants from smuggling themselves into Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula.”
The incidents came as the latest of a string of deadly encounters in the North Sinai district, amid an ongoing battle waged by the Egyptian government against an insurgency in the region, with Egyptian authorities holding the local affiliate of the Islamic State responsible for the majority of attacks.
Fighting between Egyptian forces and the Sinai Province — formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis — has escalated since Army Commander Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi took power from Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mhammad Morsi in 2013, and has since left hundreds killed, including civilians, security forces, and alleged militants.
Since al-Sisi came to power, Egypt has strictly enforced the Israeli blockade of Gaza and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants.
While Hamas has consistently denied past allegations of involvement in the Sinai insurgency, Hamas has a vested interest in increasing security cooperation with Egypt, amid a diplomatic siege by Egypt and other Arab countries on Hamas’ long-time supporter Qatar, where the former head of Hamas’ politburo was based.
Now that Hamas’ leadership is concentrated in Gaza, the political party is dependent on the goodwill of the Egyptian government to maintain its leaders’ freedom of movement through their shared border, where Cairo has enforced a brutal, decade-long Israeli siege.
Hamas officials have held a number of meetings and implemented a series of measures in recent months regarding improving relations based on increasing cross border security, which included the construction of the 100-meter-wide military buffer zone.