Egyptian FM demands Israel probe alleged 1967 POW killings
Aboul-Gheit's remarks follow criticism by local media for saying he wouldn't cut ties with Israel over film.
Egypt's foreign minister said on Tuesday he has demanded Israel investigate the alleged killings of Egyptian prisoners of war during the 1967 Six Day War, in comments that appeared to be an attempt to diffuse a public uproar over his earlier remarks which were decried here as too lenient toward Israel.
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told reporters that he sent a harsh rhetoric letter to his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni after himself watching the Israeli-made documentary "The Spirit of Shaked" which Egyptian press claimed was evidence that an elite Israel Defense Forces unit executed 250 Egyptian POWs in the Sinai Peninsula - rather than transfer them to prison camps.
Aboul-Gheit said that, "the film raises question marks ... there was no reason for the excessive use of force by the [Israeli] military unit against the special Egyptian forces."
The foreign minister's comments appeared to be a veiled apology to the Egyptian public, infuriated after he earlier in the week said Cairo has no intention of cutting ties with Israel just because of a film.
The flare-up over the documentary, broadcast in Egypt in early March, led Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer - who is also a former commander of the Shaked unit depicted in the film - to postpone a planned visit to Cairo. Many Egyptian lawmakers called on the government to suspend the peace agreement with Israel, recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and file war crimes charges against Israel.
Aboul Gheit on Tuesday did not directly accuse the IDF unit of killing Egyptian POWs but said Israel must conduct an immediate investigation and take all measures necessary to try the suspects over violations of international law.
The film's Israeli producer, Ran Ederlist, has said that Egyptian press reports badly distorted his documentary. He said the incident did not involve unarmed Egyptian POWs but Palestinian fighters killed in battle.
Egypt has already probed Israel about the incident. In 1995, Vice Premier Shimon Peres assigned a reserve Israeli army major to investigate it, but the investigation yielded no results.
Peace between Egypt and Israel came in 1978, ending a state of war that had lasted three decades and included four major conflicts. Today the two maintain high-level security ties, and Egypt plays an important mediating role between Israel and the Palestinians. But the peace agreement remains highly unpopular with many Egyptians.
Egyptian newspapers this month published several interviews with members of the Egyptian army in 1967 who talked about the killing of the POWs. The privately owned el-Masri el-Youm daily on Tuesday cited a former army officer in the 1967 war, identified as Osama el-Sadek, who recounted a scene after June 6, when orders were given to withdraw troops.
"We found some 40 [Egyptian] soldiers, shot in the head, and we saw prints of tanks that had passed over their bodies. It was a horrible scene," el-Sadek was quoted as saying.