March 6, 2007 / 1:15 PM / in 11 years

Egypt asks Israel to probe alleged 1967 killings

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Egypt called on Israel on Tuesday to investigate charges that Israeli troops led by Israel’s current infrastructure minister may have killed Egyptian prisoners of war in 1967.

<p>Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni speaks during a Global forum combating anti-Semitism at the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem February 12, 2007. Egypt called on Israel on Tuesday to investigate charges that Israeli troops led by Israel's current infrastructure minister may have killed Egyptian prisoners of war in 1967. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun</p>

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni promised to watch an Israeli documentary which Egyptian and Israeli media reports have said contained the charges, but said she understood that those killed had died in battle, and called on the two countries to put the past behind them.

Egyptians were outraged by the film, which according to Israeli media reports alleged that an army unit led by Israel’s now infrastructure minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer may have killed 250 prisoners of war in Sinai rather than transferring them to POW camps.

In a meeting with Livni in Brussels, Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit called for Israel to conduct an inquiry and to report its findings to Egypt.

“The Egyptian people and Egyptian society is extremely angry and we hope that the issue will be tackled in a manner to understand and feel that Egyptian anger,” he told a news briefing.

Livni said she had yet to see the film, but added: “The information that I got is that we are talking about a situation in which soldiers or people were killed during a battle.”

”Right now the relations between Israel and Egypt are based on peace and understanding and I think that even though there are scars -- families whose loved ones were killed during the wars, this is something we should leave behind us.

Ben-Eliezer has denied the allegations, saying those killed were Palestinian guerrillas fighting in the Egyptian army and that they died in battle.

The maker of the Israeli documentary that gave rise to the controversy has denied his film had asserted that captured Egyptian soldiers had been shot.

The Middle East News agency quoted Gheit as saying that Egypt would wait for Israel’s position in the next few days and, “deal with the situation on the regional, international and legal levels if Israel does not move”.

Gheit said he had not raised the issue in talks with European officials in Brussels.

Ben-Eliezer put off a trip to Egypt this week amid the public outrage stemming from the allegations.

Israel captured Sinai in the 1967 war and handed it back to Egypt under a 1979 peace treaty, its first with an Arab state.

Reports of wartime executions in the Sinai peninsula have surfaced before. Israeli military historian Arieh Yitzhaki said more than a decade ago that his research showed Israeli troops killed 300 Egyptian prisoners of war in 1967. Israel said soldiers on both sides committed atrocities.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels and Alaa Shahine in Cairo.

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