JERUSALEM -- A preliminary Israeli army investigation has found that its troops apparently killed three Egyptian soldiers today after mistaking them for Palestinian militants along the Gaza-Egypt border, a Foreign Ministry official said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said it appears the soldiers spotted "suspicious movements" in the volatile border area, opened fire, and mistakenly killed Egyptian soldiers.
The deaths could cause tension between the two former enemies. Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979 but have often had shaky relations.
The timing of the deaths is especially sensitive because Israel wants Egypt to help secure the Gaza Strip following a planned withdrawal next year.
Today's shooting occurred in an area called the "Philadelphi Road," a volatile patrol road along the Gaza-Egypt border. Israeli troops and Palestinian militants often battle in the area, which is lined with tunnels used by Palestinians to smuggle weapons.
Israel Radio reported that the Egyptian soldiers were apparently part of a unit responsible for preventing arms and drug smuggling.
The website of the Haaretz newspaper quoted Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim as saying Israel regrets the shooting and it was "grave in its results."