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Firefight along Israel-Egypt border results in 3 suspects captured

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:20 AM EDT, Fri March 16, 2012
A security fence is seen along the Israel-Egypt border on November 22, 2011, 20 kilometers north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
A security fence is seen along the Israel-Egypt border on November 22, 2011, 20 kilometers north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sinai security official says suspects were Bedouin tobacco smugglers
  • A firefight between the soldiers and gunmen on the Egyptian side of the border ensued
  • Three suspects were apprehended; one person was found dead
  • Israel has recently increased activity along its western border

(CNN) -- Israeli soldiers apprehended three suspects who tried to cross into Israel while patrolling their country's border with Egypt, authorities said Thursday.

A firefight between the soldiers and gunmen on the Egyptian side of the border ensued during the incident, injuring the suspects, according to a statement from the Israeli Defense Forces.

A fourth suspect was found dead at the infiltration point, the IDF reported.

Israel says the incident occurred after the suspects refused to comply with Israeli orders to stop.

Egypt's head of security in northern Sinai said the men were Bedouin tobacco smugglers "who intended to deliver cigarettes to accomplices on the other side," selling the stolen items for twice the normal price.

"They crossed over from South Rafah in northern Sinai," said Gen. Saleh Al Masry. "We have not been informed officially of the incident by the Israeli authorities."

Al Masry also rejected an Israeli statement that described last month's apparent discovery of an explosive device along the border, while also scolding Israel for "politicizing" the incident.

The suspects were airlifted by helicopter to receive medical care at an Israeli hospital.

No Israeli security personnel were injured.

"Smuggling and infiltration into Israel from its western border is used by terror organizations to execute terror attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers," the Israeli military said in the statement. "The IDF will continue to operate against anyone that poses a threat to the security of the State of Israel and its residents."

Israel has recently ramped up security activity along its western border in the wake of a reported increase in the number of illegal attempts to cross it.

CNN's Mohamed Fahmy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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