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Egypt thwarts drug smuggling attempt on border with Israel

CAIRO (Reuters) -Egypt thwarted a drug smuggling attempt after an exchange of gunfire close to a crossing on the border with Israel, where aid deliveries for Gaza are being inspected, its army spokesperson said on Tuesday.

One person was killed in the incident in the Sinai peninsula and six drug smugglers were arrested south of the Al-Awja border crossing, known in Israel as the Nitzana crossing, the spokesperson added.

An Israeli official also said the suspects were most probably trying to smuggle drugs across the border from Egypt, which has been at peace with Israel for decades.

The Israeli army's Arabic spokesperson, Avichay Adraee, said 20 suspects, including gunmen, approached the border near Nitzana before being fired at by soldiers there. Injuries were reported, he added on social media platform X.

Al-Awja-Nitzana is just over 40 km (25 miles) south of Rafah, the main crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on the enclave since 2007, when Palestinian militant group Hamas took control there.

Since war broke out between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7, Rafah has been the main entry and exit point for humanitarian supplies being sent into Gaza, with Israel inspecting much of the aid at Nitzana.

Security incidents on Egypt's border with Israel are rare, though there is a long history of smuggling activity from Sinai.

Egypt has boosted security on its side of the border in recent years and has cleared a buffer zone close to its border with Gaza.

(Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Hatem Maher in Cairo, Jana Choukeir in Dubai; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Clarence Fernandez)