Israel apologized to Egypt Saturday for killing three Egyptian soldiers during a cross-border clash with Palestinian militants, hours after Cairo threatened to withdraw its ambassador to protest the killings.
Israel, Gaza, and Egypt were embroiled in a series of tit-for-tat attacks in the past couple of days, and Israel suspected Gaza militants of having crossed through the Egyptian Sinai ultimately leading to the death of Egyptian soldier from Israeli attacks, although details of the incident are still unclear.
“Israel deeply regrets the deaths of the Egyptian officers,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement after Egypt threatened to recall its ambassador. The Egyptian government announced it had pulled the envoy, but later backtracked and issued a new statement saying it was only considering the move.
Late Saturday, Palestinians in Gaza reportedly launched about 70 rockets at southern Israel, killing one Israeli and wounding dozens. This came after the Gazan death toll from Israel’s airstrikes responding to the initial bus attack reached 14. The events threatened to push another full scale conflict.
The violence is testing Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, already strained by the fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and the prospect of a more democratic Egypt. They also are an unfortunate precursor to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood coming up next month, which the U.S. is expected to veto.