Israel returns ancient mummy sarcophagi covers to Egypt

Covers smuggled into Israel from Iron and Late Bronze Age; Return carried out on Sunday, media reports claiming attempt at improving relations

An ancient sarcophagi cover, which Israel handed back to Egypt, can be seen during the handing over ceremony in Jerusalem

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs returned two ancient artifacts to Egypt on Sunday, media reports and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reporting the return of the artifacts as a gesture of goodwill to improve Israeli-Egyptian relations. 

The artifacts were two Egyptian sarcophagi lids/covers, one dating back between to the Iron Age between the 10th and 8th centuries BC, the second from the Late Bronze Age, dated between the 16th and 14th centuries. The artifacts were stolen in Egypt by looters and illegally smuggled into Israel from a Gulf State, Israel’s Antiquities Authority confiscating them close to four years ago.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General, Dore Gold, stated on the return Sunday “The return of the Egyptian artifacts is symbolic, more than anything, of the changing relations between Israel and Egypt.”

The return comes following Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s remarks made last week on the French initiative for resuming peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Sisi stated in a televised speech that he supports the international conference to be held in France, as well as international efforts to “work towards a solution to this issue”.

He stated “There is currently an Arab initiative, a French initiative, there are American efforts and there is a quartet that are all working towards a solution to this issue. In Egypt we do not intend on playing a leading role or to be leaders on this issue, but we are prepared to exert all efforts that will contribute to finding a solution to this problem… If we can all join forces in order to solve the Palestinian issue by creating hope for Palestinians and assuring security for Israelis, we will be able to write a new chapter that may prove to be more important than the peace accords between Israel and Egypt.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to Sisi’s remarks stating “I welcome Egyptian President Sisi’s remarks and his willingness to make every effort to advance a future of peace and security between us, the Palestinians and the peoples of the region. Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region. I appreciate President Sisi’s work and also draw encouragement from his leadership on this important issue.”