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Border violence heightens Israeli concerns about Egypt

Gunman infiltrated Israel's border with Egypt this morning and ambushed two vehicles of Israeli Defense Ministry contractors tasked with building a border fence.

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An Israeli soldier directs a tank, maneuvering near the border between Israel and Egypt, on June 18.

Tsafrir Abayov/AP

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Violence along Israel's southern border with Egypt has flared up again, potentially heightening tensions between the two neighbors just weeks before the Egyptian military was supposed to hand over control to a new president.

Shortly before dawn today, a team of gunmen infiltrated Israel’s border with Egypt and ambushed two vehicles of Israeli Defense Ministry contractors tasked with building a border fence designed to prevent such attacks, leaving one worker dead. Two gunmen were killed in the ensuing crossfire with Israeli soldiers. 

The ambush came days after a pair of Grad Katyusha rockets were fired into Israel from Sinai.

The two attacks, which coincided with Egyptian presidential elections, mark the worst border violence since last summer, when two Israelis were killed in an elaborate border ambush, and Israel killed several Egyptian soldiers. That incident touched off street riots in Cairo at the Israeli Embassy, nearly upending ties.

The violence highlights two of the Jewish state's greatest concerns about its largest neighbor: a tumultuous Egyptian political transition that may bring Islamists to power, and increasingly lax security in Egypt's sparsely populated Sinai peninsula.

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