- A TV documentary that claims to prove the Israeli massacre of 20 Egyptian prisoners of war during the 1967 Six Day War is causing shock and anger in Egypt. The revelations also is leading to a diplomatic row between Egypt and Israel as there may be proof that the current Infrastructures Minister in Jerusalem held direct responsibility.
The documentary film had been produced in Israel and aired on Israeli television. It claims to document that current Israeli Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer in 1967 led a unit that was responsible for the massacre of 20 Egyptian prisoners of war, something qualified as a war crime by international law.
Minister Eliezer strongly denies the allegations put forward in the TV production. The Israeli government further maintains, as it historically has done, that prisoners of war have never been killed while in Israeli custody.
In Egypt, one of the few Arab countries recognising and living in peace with Israel, the 40-year-old revelations have caused public anger. Politicians and commentators have urged a strong reaction and juridical steps to address the case, which many say is only the top of the iceberg of what may have been a large number of Israeli war crimes.
Since the Camp David peace accord between the two countries, Egyptian authorities have not let national media and historians look into these issues out of fear that public anger may arise. Voices critical of the Egypt-Israel peace deal have on several occasions been silenced. It therefore took an Israeli documentary to look into possible war crimes 40 years ago.
With amounting public pressure, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit during the week has used a strengthening rhetoric addressing the Jerusalem government. While a Foreign Ministry statement on Wednesday only spoke about a possible "scar" in bilateral relations, Minister Abul-Gheit by now demands concrete action from Israel.
Today, the Egyptian Ministry warned Israel that Infrastructures Minister Eliezer would be arrested if he set foot on Egyptian soil. The Israeli earlier this week had already cancelled a planned trip to Cairo in the wake of the revelations.
But the Egyptian government is already pressured by angry parliamentarians to go further in their reactions. The Cairo parliament tomorrow plans to discuss possible reactions, spanning from a total rupture of diplomatic ties to expelling Israel's ambassador from Cairo. There are also demands Mr Eliezer must face charges in an international court for war crimes.
Concerned about the growing anger and popular pressure in Egypt - being the first-ever occasion Egyptians have to react negatively to the peace with Israel - governments in Cairo and Jerusalem are looking at ways to limit diplomatic complications. In a press release today, Foreign Minister Abul-Gheit said he has been told by his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni, that Israel was "resolved to probe reports of the killing of Egyptian prisoners of war" in 1967.
The Egyptian top diplomat urged Israel to reveal the truth about what happened. On the aim of broadcasting the documentary at this time, Mr Abul-Gheit said that there were many explanations for the move. "But all what matters is to reveal the truth," he stressed.
Minister Abul-Gheit added that severing ties with Israel would not be the right move. "Had Egypt not had ties with Israel, we would have not been able to express our vision so clearly and to ask for seeing the documentary and setting up a probe into the issue," he added.
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