Egypt FM demands probe into film

Livni urges counterpart to calm furor over documentary on '67 IDF "massacre."

March 6, 2007 00:43
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Egypt's foreign minister urged Israel on Tuesday to probe allegations that IDF troops killed unarmed Egyptian prisoners captured during the 1967 Middle East War. "The Egyptian people and Egyptian society [are] extremely angry, and we hope that that issue will be tackled in a manner that understands and feels that Egyptian anger," Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with her Egyptian counterpart in Brussels earlier in the day and called on him to work toward calming down the passion that the screening of the documentary "Ruah Hashaked" has caused in Egypt. Livni told Gheit that Israel was sorry that certain elements in Egypt were making misled and erroneous use of the film without any orderly investigation and without any connection to reality "in order to harm the relations between the two countries." Livni said that "there is no claim that there was a killing of prisoners of war, but rather a killing of people during the battle."

  • Former Shaked fighter: We never killed POWs Israel has agreed that a transcript of the documentary will be passed on to Egypt. "We asked Israelis to conduct an investigation into the facts and to report to us about their discovery and their conclusions," Gheit told reporters. "[Livni] promised that she will first review the documentary before making any commitment on its part." The two foreign ministers were both meeting separately with European foreign ministers in the Belgian capital. On Monday, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem played down the impact that the Channel 1 documentary will have on Israeli-Egyptian ties. The "Shaked" documentary, which has been depicted in the Egyptian media as an IDF "massacre" of Egyptian prisoners, aired last week and claimed that the elite Shaked unit, led by National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, had killed 250 Egyptian fighters in Sinai towards the end of the 1967 Six Day War. Ben-Eliezer responded by saying that those killed were not Egyptian POWs, but rather Palestinian fedayun guerrillas who were killed in battle. Because of the passion that the story has stirred in Egypt, Ben-Eliezer on Monday postponed a planned trip to Cairo. On Sunday evening, Egypt's Foreign Ministry summoned Israel's ambassador to Cairo, Shalom Cohen, and demanded an explanation of the report. This came amid calls over the weekend by two Egyptian parliamentarians to expel the Israeli ambassador. According to diplomatic sources, those who summoned Cohen had not seen the documentary, had only heard about it, and asked for a transcript. "This is not something that is that serious," one diplomatic source said. "It is a way for the Egyptian media to continue to blast Israel - this is a constant pattern." "In the final analysis, those who make the final decision there are not the parliamentarians, or even public opinion, which the press creates," the source said. "Those who decide are [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak and [intelligence chief Omar] Suleiman, and - if you've noticed - they haven't reacted." The source said the episode was unlikely to impact Egypt's mediation efforts in the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit or attempts to pressure Hamas to moderate its positions, because Egypt's involvement in these issues serves Egypt's interests, not only Israel's. "They are involved in the Hamas issue because Hamas is in Gaza and is their neighbor," the source said. "They are not doing it for us." The official said the episode was an "ugly wave" that would pass, and said it was similar to an incident in 1995 involving David Sultan, Israel's ambassador to Egypt at the time. Sultan asked to be removed as ambassador after an Egyptian newspaper claimed he was personally responsible for killing some 100 Egyptian prisoners, a claim that Israel and Sultan denied. Despite the denials, Sultan said at the time that he felt his life was in danger in Egypt. The source said not to take the calls to expel Israel's ambassador to Cairo too seriously, saying that these calls were heard in Egypt "about once a week."

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