As a solemn drumroll pierced the desert calm, Egypt returned the bodies of 11 Israeli war dead today in a military ceremony designed as another demonstration of the practical benefits of peace.
Israeli soldiers draped their national colors over each wooden coffin and, as officers read Hebrew scriptures, hoisted them aboard two flatbed military trucks and drove across the simple boundary between Egypt's newly recovered territory and that part of the Sinai still held by Israel.
The turnover marked the fourth time Egypt has returned bodies of Israeli soldiers killed in the October, 1973 war. Egyptian officials depicted it was another is a series of gestures aimed at proving to Israeli and Egyptian public opinion that the new peace can improve everyday life in both countries.
Egyptian officials said the 11 bodies were found during Egyptian digging operations to widen the Suez Canal. Israel said the bodies of some its soldiers killed in 1973 are still missing and the canal-widening operations are continuing, so further turnovers are possible.
Israel has returned about 60 bodies of Egyptian was dead in three separate turnovers since the 1973 war. But none was returned in today's ceremony at El Arish's Heroes Square, a small, sun-scorched patch of tarmac in front of what was an Israeli army cafeteria until Israel returned the town to Egyptian control exactly one month ago.