On the backdrop of reports on a possible breakthrough in a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas that would see the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday issued an apology to Cairo for the deaths of Egyptian border guard patrol officers from IDF fire during the terror attack in southern Israel in August.
Senior IDF and Egyptian military officials, headed by Commander of the IDF Planning Branch Major-General Amir Eshel held a joint inquiry into the incident, as agreed upon by Barak and Egyptian head of Supreme Military Council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
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As part of the joint investigation, the officials analyzed the details of the August 18 event at the Egypt-Israel border, drawing lessons to improve security along the border and prevent future attacks. A blackout was imposed on the details of the probe.
Based on the findings of the investigation, the defense minister decided to issue an official apology in which he expressed regret over the deaths of the border patrol officers.
Eight Israelis were killed in the attack, perpetrated by terrorists who infiltrated into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula. After the deadly incident, the Defense Ministry did not issue an official apology for the deaths of five border guard patrol officers, who were shot by IDF forces deployed to the border area.
At the time, Barak said: "Israel regrets the deaths of the Egyptian officers during the attack at the border," but added that "the appropriate conclusions will be drawn according to the findings of the inquiry."