Israel apologises to Egypt over deaths

2011-08-20 18:17

Jerusalem - Israel apologised to Egypt on Saturday for the deaths of three Egyptian soldiers during a cross-border clash with Palestinian militants, hours after Cairo threatened to withdraw its ambassador.

Israel has blamed Palestinians from Gaza who came through Egypt's Sinai desert for killing eight Israelis after they crossed the border. The violence is testing Israel's landmark 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, already strained by the fall of long time autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.

"Israel deeply regrets the deaths of the Egyptian officers," Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.

The statement came after Egypt threatened to recall its ambassador to protest the killings of its soldiers. The Egyptian government put an announcement on its website overnight saying it had pulled the envoy, but later backtracked and said it was only considering the move.

On Thursday, the militants who crossed from Egypt launched a series of attacks on cars and buses in Israel's south. Egypt says that the three soldiers were killed in an Israeli airstrike along the Israel-Sinai border in response to the attacks.

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