Egypt: relations deteriorate

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 25, 2011

The relationship between Israel and Egypt was further strained over the past week as the Egyptian government accused Israeli soldiers of responsibility for the deaths of five of its border guards during the terror attack near Eilat last Thursday. Israel agreed to accept an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

While not issuing an official statement on the Egyptian deaths, senior IDF sources have maintained that Israeli forces "shot only at the sources of fire on the Egyptian side of the border. The terrorists were using the Egyptian border post as cover."

The IDF also believes that some of the border guards were killed by the terrorists' fire and explosive devices. But none of this could assuage the anti-Israel atmosphere in Cairo, where thousands crowded around the Israeli Embassy, demanding that the temporary government sever ties with Israel.

On Sunday, the head of the IDF's Planning Branch, Major General Amir Eshel, flew to Cairo for meetings with his Egyptian counterparts. The two sides agreed to set up a joint commission to investigate the deaths, but Egypt is already demanding an official apology and compensation.

Meanwhile, Israel and Turkey are still trying to settle differences over 2010's Gaza flotilla deaths. Prime Minister Netanyahu told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Israel would not apologise, but diplomats from both sides were still in talks this week.

"Netanyahu is trying so hard to solve the crisis with Turkey, he hired the leading linguists to find a formula acceptable to the Turkish government," said a senior government adviser.

Last updated: 9:59am, August 25 2011