Egypt: Israel’s Apology Over Police Deaths ‘Not Enough’

Posted August 20th, 2011 at 9:10 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday apologized for the deaths of Egyptian officers in clashes between the Israeli troops and suspected Palestinian militants along the Israel-Egypt border Thursday.

Barak said Israel “regrets” the deaths of the five Egyptian officers and will conduct a joint investigation of the incident with the Egyptian military.

The Egyptian government responded, saying that although Israel's apology was welcome, it is “not enough.” The French News Agency Sunday quoted a cabinet statement as saying “the Israeli regret was not in keeping with the magnitude of the incident and the state of Egyptian anger toward Israeli actions.”

Earlier in the day, Egypt's military-led government threatened to withdraw its ambassador to Israel in protest at the killings, blaming them on Israeli troops whom it said violated the two neighbors' 1979 peace treaty. It also said Israel must investigate the killings and apologize for statements claiming that Egypt's control over the Sinai peninsula is “weakening.”

Israeli officials said no Israeli security forces would intentionally harm their Egyptian counterparts. They also said it is not clear who killed the five Egyptian officers.

Thursday's incident began when militants crossed into southern Israel and attacked Israeli buses, cars and security personnel who rushed to the scene. Eight Israelis, including six civilians, were killed. Israeli troops fired back, killing at least five assailants in a battle along the Israeli border with Egypt.

The Quartet of Mideast peace mediators issued a statement Saturday, condemning the militant attack in southern Israel as “premeditated terrorism” and calling for those responsible to be quickly brought to justice.

The United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations also expressed “concern about the security situation” in Sinai and urged Cairo to find a “lasting resolution” to the problem.

Israel has carried out a series of air strikes on militant targets in Gaza in retaliation for Thursday's attack, killing at least 14 Palestinians, most of them militants. Israeli officials say one of the initial strikes killed the leaders of the militant group that planned the cross-border raid.

Gaza militants have fired dozens of rockets at southern Israeli communities since Thursday in response to the air strikes, killing one Israeli and wounding at least 16 other people. Hamas militants who control Gaza said Friday they were ending a two-year truce with Israel.

The Arab League said permanent representatives of its 22 members will hold an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the violence in the region. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation issued a statement condemning Israel for what it called an “unjustified escalation” and “ugly crime” against Gaza civilians.