Israel ‘Regrets’ Deaths of Egyptian Troops in Border Battle

Posted August 20th, 2011 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Israel has expressed regret for the deaths of Egyptian security personnel in fighting between Israeli troops and suspected Palestinian militants along the Israel-Egypt border on Thursday.

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

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 neighbor's 1979 peace treaty. Israeli officials said Saturday the Egyptian ambassador was still in the country.

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 were killed, including six civilians and two officers. Israeli troops fired back, killing at least five assailants in a battle along the Israeli border with Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

Israeli officials say it is not clear who killed the five Egyptian officers during the fighting. They also say the militants crossed from Gaza into Sinai before sneaking into Israel across a largely unfenced border.

Egypt's government said Saturday Israel must investigate the killings and apologize for statements claiming that Egypt's control over the Sinai peninsula is “weakening.” Senior Israeli defense official Amos Gilad said Saturday no Israeli security forces would intentionally harm their Egyptian counterparts.

Hundreds of Egyptians gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo late Friday to protest the killings of the Egyptian officers. The demonstrators burned Israeli flags and called for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled.

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 fighters have fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel since Friday in response to the air strikes, wounding several people. Hamas militants who control Gaza said Friday they are ending a two-year truce with Israel.