Israel to apologise to Egypt, not Turkey

Israel is to apologise to Cairo over the deaths of six Egyptian policeman, according to an announcement which coincided with news of an Egyptian-brokered deal for the release of Gilad Shalit.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets his ministers to discuss the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, on October 11, 2011 in Jerusalem. AFP Photo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets his ministers to discuss the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, on October 11, 2011 in Jerusalem. AFP Photo.

The apology was expected to be formally extended on Wednesday.

In a statement released on Tuesday evening Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel and Egypt had concluded a joint inquiry into the deaths of six Egyptians killed by Israeli fire on August 18.

The deaths, which raised tensions between Israel and Cairo, occurred as Israeli troops chased a number of gunmen responsible for carrying out a series of shooting attacks which killed eight Israelis.

In his statement, Barak said Israel was willing to issue an apology over the deaths.

“Based on the findings of the investigation, Barak decided to apologise to the Egyptians over the death of every Egyptian policeman in the line of duty as the result of Israeli fire,” it said.

The defence ministry announcement came at exactly the same time as news broke over the landmark deal to secure Shalit’s release in exchange for freeing 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

Both Israel and Hamas praised Egypt for its efforts to mediate the deal, which came more than five years after Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid by Gaza-based militants.

The Egyptian state news agency MENA said Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi was a key player in helping seal the deal between Israel and Hamas.

“General Murad Muwafi succeeded in concluding the deal,” the agency said. “His discussions with the Israeli side were done over the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” Egypt’s cabinet also praised the deal in a posting on its Facebook page.

“Egypt succeeded in realising a historic deal on the exchange of prisoners between Hamas and Israel,” the post said.

In the meantime, Turkey’s demand for a formal apology from the Israeli government over the Mavi Marmara Flotilla incident still remains unfulfilled. The Israeli government had refused to issue a formal apology for the raid which resulted in the death of 9 Turkish citizens, despite the political pressure put on by Turkey, causing the issue to turn into a diplomatic deadlock. The relation between the one-time allies deteriorated significantly, hitting a new low recently when Turkey downgraded ties with the state of Israel.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
JERUSALEM – Agence France-Presse