Israel to formally apologize to Egypt over soldier deaths

Barak to release apology after talks with Cairo; Israeli delegation traveled to Cairo earlier this week to present a draft of apology.

Barak at press conference 311 (photo credit: Ariel Harmony / Defense Ministry)
Barak at press conference 311
(photo credit: Ariel Harmony / Defense Ministry)
Israel on Tuesday issued a formal apology to the Egyptian government and took responsibility for the shooting that killed five Egyptian policemen during the terrorist attacks near Eilat in August.
The apology was issued as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened the cabinet to approve a prisoner swap for the release of tank gunner Gilad Schalit. Egypt played a key role in mediating negotiations between Israel and Hamas over the prisoner exchange.
The apology was issued by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has overseen the talks with Cairo that were led by OC Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel. Earlier this week, an Israeli delegation traveled to Cairo and presented a draft of the planned apology to the interim military regime for its approval.
On August 18, a number of armed terrorists crossed into Israel via the Egyptian-Israeli border and killed eight Israelis, including two security personnel.Israel blamed the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees for orchestrating the attacks and several hours later killed the group’s top leadership in an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip.
During the fighting along the Sinai border, five Egyptian policemen were killed. The Egyptians accused the IDF of shooting into Egypt and violating its sovereignty and demanded an apology. Israel expressed regret for the loss of Egyptian life but refrained from issuing an apology.
The IDF launched a probe, led by Eshel, which determined that it was possible that some of the soldiers were killed in the crossfire between IDF troops and members of the terrorist cell who were shooting into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula.
“The lessons were learned from the probe to prevent similar attacks in the future and to improve security along the border,” Barak’s office said in a statement. “Due to the findings from the probe, Defense Minister Barak decided to apologize for the death of each policeman who was killed by Israeli fire.”