Rabin rejects call to investigate alleged POW killings in 56, 67

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has rejected the idea of investigating the alleged executions of Egyptian prisoners of war by Israeli troops, saying that similar acts had been committed by Egyptian soldiers against captured Israelis.

Rabin, speaking at Sunday's Cabinet meeting, said, "There were digressions on both sides.

"No good would be served by bringing up these issues," he added.

Rabin's comments came amid a controversy that erupted in the wake of allegations that Israeli troops killed captured Egyptians during the 1956 Sinai Campaign and during the 1967 Six Day War.

Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who led a crack commando unit that was allegedly involved in the killing of Egyptian POWs during the Six Day War, called the reports "nonsense."

He also backed Rabin's comments, saying that dredging up the issue would only open a Pandora's box.

Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni, of the Meretz Party, which is part of the governing coalition, had insisted that the issue be included in the Cabinet's agenda on Sunday.

She took issue with Rabin's stand.

"We should never get to the point where we compare our moral code to others," she told Army Radio, adding that the issue should not be swept under the rug.

In Egypt, the government of President Hosni Mubarak has avoided inflammatory comments about the alleged killings.

But opposition newspapers in Egypt called for vengeance against the killers of the POWs and attacked the Egyptian government for not taking a tougher stance on the issue.

Mohammed Nouriddine Shami, an Egyptian lawyer, said on Saturday that he would claim $100 million from Israel for the families of the alleged victims.

Shami told Reuters he is suing Israel in Cairo in a case that is to be heard in Alexandria on October 28.

"After I heard the news of the torture and killing of Egyptian prisoners of war in 1956 and 1967, I felt extremely humiliated,'' he said. "I felt even more humiliated when nobody moved to punish the criminals, one of whom has already admitted to killing a number of prisoners during the 1956 war.''

Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair said Friday he is studying whether Biro and others involved in the 1956 incident can be prosecuted.

Some legal commentators have said the officers cannot be prosecuted because Israel has no war-crimes law, and murder charges cannot be brought more than 20 years after the crime was allegedly committed.