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Mass grave may strain Israeli-Egyptian relations

September 25, 1995
Web posted at: 6:53 p.m. EDT (2253 GMT)

From Correspondent Gayle Young

EL-ARISH, Egypt (CNN) -- While Israel takes a big step toward peace with the Palestinians, Israeli relations with one neighbor, Egypt, are being strained again.

The recent discovery of mass graves in the Sinai threatens to re-open old wounds between Israel and Egypt.

"Such people should be punished according to the law."
-- Mohamed Abdel Moneim, Al-Ahram newspaper.

mass grave

Villager Hassan Al-Malah declares to other searchers he's found more bones. Neighbors quickly dig up what they say is a mass grave of Egyptian prisoners killed by Israeli soldiers during the 1967 war.

The Bedouins say they witnessed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers executed without trial. Then they buried the bodies when Israelis left them to rot in the desert sun. "They would nail the prisoners hands to the trees like this and shoot them," said witness Hassan Al-Malah, raising his hands behind his head. "It was Jews from America."

Neither Egyptian nor Israeli authorities ever investigated what happened here at El-Arish. "Mothers and fathers would come and look for their kids but what could we tell them? We didn't know the names of these guys," said Hamada Mohamed Hassan.

exec. demo

Aryeh Biro, a retired Israeli officer, publicly admitted weeks ago that war crimes were committed in the Sinai in 1967. But the recent discovery of mass graves has revived memories in Egypt and perhaps renewed animosity against the former enemy. Egypt and Israel made peace a decade after the war but there is little trade or tourism between the two countries.

Now the Israelis are offering to compensate families of the victims but some Egyptians want Israeli officers put on trial as well. "Such people should be punished according to the law," said Mohamed Abdel Moneim of the Al-Ahram newspaper.

The Israelis have refused to put any officers on trial, saying it was all too long ago. However, the memories are still fresh for the villagers near El-Arish in the Sinai.

Egypt and Israel may have buried their differences, but for now, the remains of what may be hundreds of massacred soldiers are unlikely to rest in peace.

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