PM thanks Egypt for 'heartwarming' role in Schalit deal

Netanyahu calls Egyptian military leader Mohamed Tantawi, thanks him for "intense and successful" negotiation efforts.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
October 13, 2011 18:02
1 minute read.
cabinet meeting

Netanyahu, Cabinet meeting_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked Egyptian military ruler, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, for Egypt's central role in negotiating the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, Army Radio reported Thursday.

Netanyahu told Tantawi, the head of the Egyptian Supreme Military Council, that Egypt's help "warms the hearts of all Israeli citizens."

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In a subsequent tweet about the phone call, Netanyahu called the Egyptian efforts that led to the deal "intense and successful."

In signs of warming ties between the two countries, Egypt confirmed on Wednesday that it had received an official letter of apology from Israel for the deaths of six Egyptian security forces near the southern border with Sinai in August.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry confirmed it had received an apology for the deaths from Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office just hours after the announcement that Israel and Hamas had approved a prisoner-exchange agreement for the release of kidnapped tank gunner Gilad Schalit, Egyptian daily Al Ahram reported.

Schalit will be freed in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Schalit negotiator David Meidan will head to Cairo in the coming days to conclude the details of the deal struck between Israel and Hamas to bring the kidnapped soldier back to Israel.

Yet not all signs point to improving relations between Egypt and Israel.  Thursday, an Egyptian air force officer told the MENA news agency that Egypt was circling fighter jets over Sinai without permission from Israel, Army Radio reported.

"Half of the Sinai Peninsula is our territory, and we do not need authorization to increase our power in the region," he said, stressing that the overflights were a response to increased terror activity in Sinai since the fall of the Mubarak regime.

The 1978 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement limits Egyptian military activity in Sinai.

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