Sun, Nov 21, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Egyptians rage over shootings

MISTAKE The Israeli army has already promised an investigation but that didn't stop the anger in mosques on Friday and in Egyptian newspapers

AP , Cairo, Egypt

Egyptians raged at an Israeli mistake that left three border policemen dead, and the Israeli army chief promised an investigation.

Following Friday prayers at Cairo's main mosque, the millennium-old Al-Azhar, about 100 protesters rallied under banners: "Don't forget Oct. 6, 1973," the day Egypt initiated its last war with Israel, or, "The pigs' apology doesn't quench our rage."

Police in riot gear and in plainclothes kept a close watch on the crowd as speakers denounced both the shooting and trouble elsewhere in the Middle East, chiefly the chaos in Iraq following the US-led invasion of Iraq.

In Egypt, the Al-Azhar protest echoed comments by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa on Thursday, that the killing of the three Egyptians was "a new element added to the deteriorating situation in the region."

Anger here already was widespread at what is seen as Israel's heavy-handed response to the Palestinian uprising. Egyptian protesters periodically call on their government to tear up its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the first between an Arab government and the Jewish state.

Egyptian editor Emad Gad, whose monthly Israeli Digest about Arab-Israeli affairs is seen as close to the government, said that despite the public uproar, the shooting would not escalate into a bilateral crisis.

Gad said Egyptian government officials, aware of the importance of Egypt's role in an Israeli plan to withdraw from Gaza and in helping the US revive the Arab-Israeli peace process, would ensure reaction to the shooting "will be carefully guided."

In a cool official response to the border shooting that may have been meant as much for domestic as Israel consumption, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Thursday issued a formal protest and demanded an investigation. The ministry statement made no mention of whether Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's apology, delivered in a call to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, had been accepted.

Israel's swift apology and pledge to find out why the shooting happened was derided in some Egyptian quarters Friday.

The liberal opposition daily Al-Wafd declared in a front-page headline that Egyptians "rejected" the apology. The independent Al Masri Al Youm said in an editorial: "An apology, no matter how many artificial words or how much grief it contains, doesn't heal an attack on the nations' honor."

Pro-government Al-Ahram carried interviews with relatives and friends of the three young policemen who were killed -- Amer Abu Bakr Amer, Hani Ali Sobhi al-Naggar and Mohammed Abdel Fattah.

Ezzat Ramadan, a friend of Amer's, was quoted as demanding trials of those responsible and saying: "All our village rejects the Israeli apology."

The shooting came at a particularly sensitive time in Israeli-Egyptian relations.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was to travel to Israel next week to discuss, among other things, Sharon's plans to withdrawn from the Gaza Strip.

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