CAIRO: Israeli troops at the Kerem Shalom crossing, 3.5 km south of Gaza, opened fire Thursday on Egyptian houses killing Hmeidan Suweilam, a Sinai Bedouin whose house lies on the border.
Suweilam’s house was one of 150 houses subject to Israeli gunfire, AFP reported. Suweilam died after being taken to a hospital to treat bullet wounds.
No explanation or comment has been offered by the Israelis regarding the incident, which comes at a volatile time in Egyptian-Israeli relations.
Relations have been strained recently as accusations and counter-accusations were exchanged between officials on both sides.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has denied claims in the Israeli newspaper Maariv that it had drafted a document aiming to reduce dealings with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, labeling him a “radical, and recommending dealing with President Hosni Mubarak and Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman instead.
“The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejects a report published on Wednesday by Maariv daily on the alleged existence of a document drafted by the MFA regarding Israel’s position towards the Egyptian Foreign Minister, read a statement released by the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
“The MFA denies having drafted such a document including such a recommendation.
“The Israeli embassy would like to underline the importance of the good relations and the positive dialogue existing between the two states, and the two ministries of foreign affairs, the statement continued.
The most recent spat came about after Egypt allowed over 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims to return to Gaza through the Rafah crossing, a decision which drew harsh criticism from Israel.
Additionally, around 1,200 Palestinians already stranded in Egypt took the opportunity to return to Gaza through the crossing which has been closed since Hamas took over the strip in June.
Israeli officials claimed that Egypt’s decision “contradicted understandings reached when their defense minister Ehud Barak visited Egypt last week to undertake discussions on border issues.
“Israel views with great concern the unsupervised passage into the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing point of a group of Muslim pilgrims associated with Hamas, among them terrorist operatives, an Israeli official told Reuters.
“The group’s passage via the Rafah crossing harms counterterrorism efforts, as well as attempts to bring about calm in the region and to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the official added.
Egypt’s position was that this was not a political decision, but a humanitarian one and should be seen in that context.
Aboul Gheit had warned on “El-Beit Betak show on TV’s Channel 2 that his country would “retaliate diplomatically against Israel if it hurts US-Egyptian ties with its complaints over smuggling into Gaza.
He said, “If they [Israelis] continue to push and affect US-Egyptian relations and harm Egyptian interests, for sure Egypt will retaliate and will harm their interests.
We have claws capable of retaliating in all directions and through diplomacy.
Aboul Gheit had also previously commented on Israeli pressure undermining Egyptian-US relations saying, “The latest months have seen the Israeli lobby’s efforts to harm Egypt’s interests with the Congress. The Israeli lobby inside the Congress was behind some positions adopted by Congress and the Israeli media campaign in the last few months falls within this trend.