Massacre claim mars Livni-Gheit talks

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March 7, 2007 01:11
2 minute read.

False claims in the Egyptian media that a Channel 1 documentary claimed the Shaked Battalion killed 250 Egyptian prisoners during the Six Day War cast a cloud over talks Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held in Brussels with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Tuesday. It is an allegation that has been denied by the director of the documentary, Ran Edelist, the head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, a member of the Shaked Battalion and the unit's commander at the time, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor). Both Edelist and IBA have said that the film Ruach Shaked (The Spirit of Shaked) broadcast last week does not claim that soldiers in the battalion killed POWs, as has been reported by the Egyptian media and initially in the Israeli press. But in Egypt, they are taking the charge very seriously. "The Egyptian people and Egyptian society are extremely angry and we hope that the issue will be tackled in a manner [that] understands and feels that Egyptian anger," Gheit was quoted as saying after the meeting with Livni. "Egypt is determined to obtain clarifications from Israel on this matter," he said. "We call on Israel to immediately open an urgent inquiry." Livni, however, called on Gheit to try to calm down the passions that the issue has stirred in Egypt. According to a statement issued by her office, Livni said Israel was concerned "that certain elements in Egypt are misrepresenting the documentary film, without checking the facts or substantiating what actually happened, with the intent of sabotaging our two countries' relationship." Livni, according to the statement, made it clear to Gheit that there was no massacre of prisoners, but rather "the death of soldiers in the heat of battle." It was agreed during the meeting that a copy of the film and a transcript would be forwarded to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. Livni said after the meeting that she had not seen the documentary. "Right now the relations between Israel and Egypt are based on peace and understanding, and I think that even though there are scars - families whose loved ones were killed during the wars - this is something we should leave behind us," she said in Brussels. In Egypt, a number of parliamentarians called for Israel to be brought before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. But the film that sparked the matter does not deal with Egyptian prisoners, Edelist said. It focused on the history of the Shaked Battalion in the 1960s and on a battle with Palestinian fedayeen (Palestinian commandos) at the war's end, he said. In a statement he issued to the Egyptian press earlier this week, Ben-Eliezer denied that his unit killed Egyptian prisoners of war. He added, "It's true that in that war the unit killed fedayeen who operated in the Gaza Strip against Israel and against the battalion I commanded. "They were not murdered, they were killed in battle," he said. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.


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