Prime Minister Yair Lapid told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Sunday that he instructed his office to look into reports that the bodies of dozens of Egyptian commandos who fought Israel during the Six-Day War are buried in a mass grave in central Israel.
The premier “instructed military secretary Brig. Gen. Avi Gil to examine the issue in-depth,” Lapid’s office said, promising to update the Egyptians on the matter.
Lapid and Sissi spoke on the phone for the first time since the former became prime minister last month.
Days before the call, the Haaretz daily published an expose on the mass grave for roughly 80 Egyptian soldiers underneath Kibbutz Nahshon.
The soldiers were killed in a battle with IDF troops during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israeli authorities subsequently buried the bodies in a 20 meter-grave, according to the Haaretz report.
Residents of the nearby kibbutz would go on to complain about the stench of the grave and one member spoke to Israeli media about the episode but the IDF barred the testimony from being published. The site is now home to the Mini Israel tourist attraction, which shows replicas of landmark buildings throughout the country.
Also during their phone call, Sissi and Lapid spoke about the regional importance of the bilateral security ties between the nations, as well as about US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia, and the need to ease tensions with the Palestinians. The two also discussed ways to ensure food security due to shortages brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Israeli readout.
Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979, but relations have been mostly frosty, thawing more recently in the past few years. The countries maintain close security ties and share security interests in the Gaza Strip as well as in Sinai and the eastern Mediterranean, but most Egyptians reject ties with Israel. Cairo, like Jerusalem, sees Gaza’s Hamas rulers as a serious threat and has restricted crossings to and from the enclave.
In early 2020, Israel began exporting natural gas to Egypt, marking a historic moment for both countries. Last month, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding in Cairo that will see Israel export its natural gas to the bloc for the first time.