Egyptian security forces operate near the border with Gaza
Egyptian security forces operate near the border with GazaAbed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Egyptian soldiers firing from across the border shot dead a Palestinian Arab man in the Gaza frontier town of Rafah on Friday, medics said, although the motive was not immediately known.

The border troops shot the 23-year-old man "in the back and the bullet settled in the heart. He died on the spot," emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told the AFP news agency.

The shooting was confirmed by the spokesman of the interior ministry in Gaza, Iyad al-Bazm, in a message on his Facebook page.

"A Palestinian citizen, aged 23, was killed by Egyptian army fire on the Egyptian-Palestinian border and the security agencies are investigating the incident to find out the motives," the message said, according to AFP.

The man, whose identity was not revealed, is the first Palestinian "to have been killed in a long time"  along the border between Gaza and Egypt, according to Qudra.

While the motive remains unclear, Egypt is including Gaza in its crackdown on terrorism in the Sinai, which it claims Gaza’s Hamas rulers have been assisting.

On Tuesday, Egypt announced that work to double the width of a buffer zone  along the Gaza border would begin next week to prevent militants infiltrating from the Palestinian enclave.

The decision on the buffer zone was made following two deadly attacks in October in El-Arish, which killed dozens of soldiers and were claimed by Egypt’s deadliest terrorist group, Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis.

Egyptian sources have revealed that Hamas terrorists had provided the weapons for the lethal attacks in El-Arish through one of its smuggling tunnels under the border to Sinai, thus making the buffer zone necessary.

As part of the buffer zone plan, the Egyptian military is seizing and evacuating homes belonging to Gazans.

Egypt initially said it would wipe out all homes to a depth of 500 meters (over 1,640 feet) all along the 13 kilometer (over eight mile) border. Later it doubled that depth to 1 kilometer (0.62 miles).

The international community has been silent thus far about the buffer zone and the expulsions that have resulted from it. One exception is Amnesty International, which condemned Egypt's demolition of hundreds of homes and called for a halt to its "unlawful evictions" of residents.

After October’s attack, Egypt declared a three-month emergency in parts of North Sinai, a remote but strategic region bordering Israel and Gaza, and closed the Rafah border crossing for two months.

Egypt reopened the crossing for two days in November and again in December, for three days, to allow people stranded in Egypt to return to Gaza and for Gazans to leave.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)