LETTER: Condemnation for Israeli war crimes

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From Mrs Nadia El-Sayed


Sir: At the start of the bombing of Iraqi forces, in January 1991, and following the downing of allied aircraft and the parading of their crew on Iraqi television, an outcry ensued. There were calls summoning Baghdad to respect international law and the four 1949 Geneva conventions.

Now, we are told by Israeli ex-servicemen that Egyptian prisoners of war were made to dig their own graves, then shot by Israeli troops ("Israelis 'killed Egyptian PoWs' ", 17 August; "Israelis admit war crimes", 18 August). General Ariel Sharon, now a member of the Israeli legislative assembly, and General Rafael Eitan, a right-wing candidate for prime minister, were in command of the paratroops' brigade that reportedly carried out these executions.

Yesterday, you reported that an inquest into the matter has been ruled out by the Israeli government ("Rabin rejects 'war crimes' investigation", 21 August), notwithstanding that the Israelis have always claimed the high moral ground among Middle Eastern states, professing to represent Western democratic values in the area.

As the widow of commander-in-chief of the Egyptian naval forces at the time of the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat in Egyptian territorial waters, on 21 October 1967, Admiral Fouad Abou-Zikry, who ordered the rescue of the survivors, I am appalled at the disclosures. (The rescue offer was stubbornly rejected by the Israeli authorities.)

At a time when the international community has finally decided to bring to book war criminals in ex-Yugoslavia, it must insist that Israel brings those involved in the obnoxious treatment of Egyptian PoWs to justice, and call for the individual accountability of officers and their commanders for their criminal acts, followed by national or international trials.

Yours sincerely,

Nadia El-Sayed El-Shazly

London, W5