Documented Evidence That Egyptian Troops Did Execute Israeli POWs During Yom-Kippur War of 1973
The screening of the Israeli documentary on the 'Shaked' special forces unit in the Six-Day War of 1967 has sparked a fierce reaction in Egypt. One part of the film aired on Channel One television related to the Shaked pursuit operation against a battalion of 250 Egyptian soldiers who had been attacking Israeli targets in Sinai. It is the practice and policy of the Israel Defense Forces to respect the rights of POWs. In time of war, Israel shows captured POWs each one saying his name on television to show they are alive and being fairly treated. In contrast, Arab states do not even release the names of Israeli POWs so their anguished families can know they are alive. Who did what to Egyptian and Israeli POWs? IsraCast presents new information on the burning issue that is threatening Israeli-Egyptian relations.
The Shaked unit was commanded by Brig. Gen. Binyamin Ben Eliezer who is now a cabinet minister. Ben Eliezer had to cancel an official visit to Cairo after the airing of the documentary and the subsequent fireworks.
At no point in the documentary did Shaked commanders refer to the execution of POWs as was inaccurately reported by some of the Israeli media. Despite this clarification by Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the affair has been exploited by anti- Israeli elements in Egypt to whip-up a campaign of vilification against the Jewish state.
There is no evidence in the documentary that the Shaked unit executed Egyptian POWs. None of the Shaked officers interviewed in the film referred in any way to the execution of prisoners as was reported by some of the Israeli media in its reporting on the film.
The Israeli reports were picked up by the official Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram triggering the firestorm in Egypt. Some Egyptian politicians demanded that Cairo sever ties with Israel. In reaction, the Israeli foreign ministry has sent a copy of the documentary to the Egyptian government. Until now, President Mubarak has not joined the tirade of vilification against Israel.
This is the translated text of the interviews with the commanding officers of the Shaked unit:
Lt. Colonel Gershoni: 'Our unit received two Sikorsky helicopters. The Piper observation planes would locate the enemy troops on the ground and direct us to them. We would land, attack and kill them. Fuad would write on his pants how many we killed....they were pretty scared, hiding in holes they dug in the sand and under palm branches. A few returned fire.'
Brig. Gen. Chen: 'It should be related to and say it was unnecessary. The forces did not threaten us and we came from above'.
Brig. Gen. Ben Eliezer (Fuad): 'We suffered from that battalion more than any other - every night they attacked us one way or the other'.
Gershoni: 'Something like revenge was there. We were filled with a lot of rage and anger after the war... we kept it pent-up inside. We didn't speak about it for a long time because there was an unofficial element involved, something unplanned and without a goal that everyone could explain'.
Chen: 'The problem is that we carried it out, that's what's so serious. We did not exercise proper judgment. By the end of the war, we were cock of the block, I have no other word'.
Gershoni: 'Everyone who participated had absolutely no problem at the time'
Ben Eliezer: 'The battalion (Egyptian) was armed and our mission was to carry out a pursuit operation... nobody asked questions. The men were filled with the sanctity of the mission'.
Chen: 'We did not use appropriate judgement... in retrospect if we had then what we have today, we would have been capable of stopping, even of disobeying orders'.
Gershoni: 'I had absolutely no problem with it. From a historical point of view, I don't think there is an argument about it today'.
So much for the Israeli documentary.
The fact is there is documented evidence that the Egyptian Army did execute Israeli POWs during the Yom-Kippur War of 1973. However, Israeli leaders hushed up these cases after diplomatic contacts began between Israel and Egypt. The Six-Day War in 1967 broke out after the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi armies were massed along Israel's borders with goal of the annihilating the Jewish state.
Here is the testimony of Lt. Bezalel Hochman who served in the military burial as reported in the Jerusalem newspaper of 1.9.95: 'After the war, we found the bodies of IDF soldiers in undershirt and pants, blindfolded with their hands ties behind their backs with the wire from field telephones. Their bodies were photographed. U.N. observers, in the presence of Egyptian officers, were present in this case. The Egyptians immediately canceled the joint searches.
Professor Avi Ori of the Rabin Medical Center in Tel Aviv, who served as a doctor at the Heziyon position, hid for another day after the bunker was stormed. When he came out he saw a mound of dead IDF soldiers with their hands tied. Professor Ori himself was put before a firing squad. It was only his pleading that he was a doctor that saved his life. An Egyptian medic questioned him and when it was clarified that he was indeed a doctor the Egyptians spared his life so that he could care for Egyptian soldiers.
During the battle along the Suez Canal, the Egyptians also used flame-throwers in attacking IDF soldiers inside the Israeli positions. This is in flagrant violation of international law. In the Egyptian military museum in Cairo, there are photos of Egyptian soldiers shooting Israeli POWs and using the flame-throwers. IsraCast also has access to photos of IDF POWs who were photographed alive and well after being being prisoner but came back home in coffins after the Yom-Kippur War.
These cases in which dozens of IDF soldiers were executed did not emanate from low level or local decisions by officers in the field. The order came directly from the Egyptian Commander in Chief General Shazli. In a pamphlet distributed to hundreds of thousands of Egyptian soldiers immediately before the Yom-Kippur War, this was General Shazli's order of the day:
'Kill them (the Israelis) wherever you find them! Beware that they don't deceive you because they are a people of deceivers. They pretend that they are surrendering in order to trick you... Kill them and do not show them mercy...
Avi Yaffe, the soldier who recorded during the Yom-Kippur War while serving in a position along the Suez Canal reported how more than ten dead IDF soldiers were also found with their hands tied at the Hizayon position near the Firdan bridge across the Suez Canal. They were shot with Kalashnikov rifles from a distance of a meter or so and dumped into a mass grave. This evidence was photographed and exists but have never been made public.
Yaffe, who fought in the Porkan position opposite Ismailia, recorded voices during the Yom-Kippur heard the calls from other IDF soldiers that the Egyptians were burning them to death with flame-throwers and killing anyone who tried to surrender. Yaffe also has recordings of soldiers who were saved from Egyptian firing squads.
Attached are several translated recordings-the original recordings can be heard on aviyaffe.com
Strull: 'When I came out of the bunker I saw about ten bodies in the yard, and I thought that they were also tied up with their hands behind their backs, I didn't recognize anyone, they were all piled up one on top of another. The one that was on top, I remember that he had a bullet in his forehead. And then it seemed to me that someone shot him at really close range, just like that, in the forehead.'
Yehuda: 'When I came out and they made us lie down in the yard so that they could tie our hands, that's when I saw the corpses. they were in a pile. They were in a line. Shlomo was the nearest to me, and I saw that his hands were tied behind his back and he had a bullet in the head.
Our guys were lying on their front with their hands tied behind them, with a bullet in the head. If they were like that, with their hands tied behind their backs, then I guess perhaps they went out to surrender in the final stages of the last battle, and apparently they stood them in line, tied them up and killed them.'
Dani: 'So they tied us up, hands behind our backs, and one of the soldiers pointed towards the pile and said to us: 'You are going there.' They turned us around with our eyes open, to face the wall, and I knew that any minute we were going to get a bullet. So I don't know how at that moment I took the initiative to turn around. I turned around and spoke to their sergeant in Arabic. I asked him, what do you want to do? So he says: 'You are going onto that pile.'
During this conversation, while I'm talking to him, their officer arrives. A lieutenant. Then he questioned us, asked whether we had fought in '67 or not. I realized that if I said I had fought in '67, that would be the end for me. So, I had my reserve duty book in my hand. I said I had not fought in '67. I was lucky that he couldn't read Hebrew. Then they blindfolded us. Barefoot, they threw us into a truck full of jerry cans. We lay in the truck. They beat us half to death. After that, by Hizayon A', they took off the blindfolds and showed us their force, the tanks and everything they had there, and then they took us across the Canal by boat.'
Footnote: In August 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin proposed to Egypt that the two countries issue a joint declaration that they will strive to enforce the fair treatment of POWs. In light of the current furor, it's high time that the two countries reconsider Yitzhak Rabin's proposal. Moreover, Egyptians who are demanding investigations into unfounded Israeli 'atrocities' should also seek the truth on their side as well.