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Egyptian Lawmakers Remain Upset by Israeli Documentary

Emotions remain high in Cairo, even after Egypt asked for Israel to investigate whether Israeli soldiers killed Egyptian POWs during the 1967 war. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the issue and Leslie Boctor reports from VOA's Middle East Bureau in Cairo, on growing political outrage in Egypt over the allegations.

The Associated Press reports a statement released by the Israeli Embassy says Israel's ambassador in Egypt, Shalom Cohen, told Egyptian officials in Cairo the allegations are "totally groundless".

The claims have been flatly denied by Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's infrastructure minister. During the war he was in charge of the unit that allegedly shot the prisoners.

The allegations are based on an Israeli TV documentary that Egyptian media says shows the Israeli unit executed 250 POWs in the Sinai after the 1967 Six Day War had ended. The Israeli filmmaker categorically denies the allegations, saying the Egyptian media badly distorted his documentary.

The Egyptian media reports have raised a growing controversy that has dominated front page news in Cairo for the past three days.

A flurry of words were exchanged in Egypt's parliament Tuesday. Angry MPs described those involved in the allegations as "terrorists."

The issue has caused a diplomatic dispute between the two countries. The foreign ministery summoned the Israeli ambassador in Cairo earlier in the week to answer to the allegations.

Following his meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit warned the allegations would leave deep wounds with Egyptians, and urged Israel to act accordingly.

American University in Cairo History Professor Pascale Ghazaleh says the defeat suffered in 1967 still has a great impact on Egyptians.

"1967 was certainly was one of the most traumatic, if not, the most traumatic events for Egyptians, in part because the Egyptian government lied about what was going on during the war, and what was supposed to be a victory, obviously turned into a catastrophic defeat, so there is, in terms of a blow to national pride, the very important impact of 1967, " Ghazaleh says.

Ghazaleh says despite the peace agreements between the two countries, Egyptians are still deeply suspicious of Israel because of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"As far as the POWs are concerned, there is also the idea that Israel has violated and continues to violate international law and human rights conventions with impunities, so there is the idea that double standards apply where Israel is concerned, " Ghazaleh says.

Following Tuesday's meeting in Brussels, Foreign Minister Abul Gheit said Egypt is prepared to deal with the issue on a regional and international level if Israel fails to address the issue.