Israel’s prime minister has contacted the head of Egypt’s ruling military council to express Tel Aviv’s gratitude over Cairo’s deal to free soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for imprisoned Palestinians, according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s office.
The “thank you” call to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi came the day after Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, formally apologized to Egypt for the killing of six Egyptian police officers during a cross-border shootout with militants suspected of carrying out deadly attacks in Israel.
“Your help has warmed the heart of every Israeli citizen,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Tantawi, the statement said, according to an Agence France-Presse report. “He thanked him in the name of the state of Israel for the central role played by Egypt in the deal on the return of the imprisoned soldier Gilad Shalit,” a statement said, adding that the Israeli leader acknowledged Egypt’s “intense” efforts to conclude the agreement. The final deal is expected to see Shalit transferred to Egypt on Oct. 18, as Israel releases a first group of at least 450 Palestinians. A second group of 550 Palestinians is to be freed within two months. Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal met in Cairo with Egypt’s intelligence chief, Murad Mowafi, who was instrumental in securing the swap, the official Egyptian news agency MENA said. Israel’s thanks to Egypt is the latest sign of rapprochement between the two countries after Barak’s apology over the officers’ deaths, between the two countries to their highest level since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11. which had raised tensions
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in the Berlin headquarters of the German Intelligence Service (BND), German officials expressed their satisfaction with the completed deal but added that the situations would remain “fragile” until the terms of the deal take place on the ground, daily Haaretz reported. The German officials said they were afraid of an Iranian move to sabotage the deal’s execution, claiming that Iran, who wields significant influence on Hamas, was not happy about the Israel-Hamas agreement. Hamas rulers, meanwhile, rejected the criticism from the Palestinian Authority over the terms of the swap deal regarding deportation and exile of some Palestinian prisoners, saying they only represent a small number and they would be able to return Gaza when they want.
NEW SETTLEMENTS ON WAY, ABBAS REFUSES TO BUDGE
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he’s “ready to restart negotiations right away” if Israel agrees to stop building settlements in the West Bank, but added that Israel “appears determined to continue its colonization.” The statement came as Israel has formally submitted plans for a new settlement neighborhood in annexed east Jerusalem in what will be the sector’s first new district in 14 years, Peace Now, Israel’s anti-settlers movement, said Oct. 14.
Abbas says there have been 2,600 calls for tender for construction of new settlements in the occupied territory over the past two weeks. He says “that shows that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu doesn’t want peace.” Abbas was speaking in Paris, where he was meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, Israel has announced its plans for new settlement neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The new district, Givat HaMatos, will be located on the southern flank of east Jerusalem which lies close to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, in what the settlement watchdog described as the first neighborhood to be planned since the establishment of Har Homa in 1997, Agence France-Presse reported.
EGYPT ARMY TRIES TO AVOID REACTIONS FROM COPTICS
Coptic Christians in Egypt have been unable to contain their anger since an announcement that an inquiry into last week’s violence would be transferred from a civilian prosecutor to a military one. Community members have called the violence a ‘military massacre’
Egypt’s military prosecutor has announced plans to take over an investigation into deadly clashes between the army and Coptic Christian protesters, as the country’s military rulers seek to fend off growing criticism over the worst bloodshed since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. The Oct. 13 decision effectively barred the civilian prosecutor from continuing his own inquiry and drew criticism from activists and rights groups that have grown deeply suspicious of the ruling generals’ commitment to the reform path in Egypt’s post-Mubarak transition to democracy, Associated Press reported. The clashes last week began with a peaceful demonstration in Cairo by minority Christians angry over a recent attack on a church in southern Egypt. Many of the 26 people killed, at least 21 of whom were Christians. Activists criticized the military’s takeover of the probe and said it would not be impartial. Meanwhile, Egypt’s government said Oct. 13 it would discuss the sensitive issue of building permits for Christian churches. Information Minister Osama Haikal said a commission would be formed to “examine all the incidents that erupted in recent months.”