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JERUSALEM, March 30 (Reuters) - After half a century of reticence and recrimination, Israel on Wednesday honoured nine Egyptian Jews recruited as agents-provocateur in what became one of the worst intelligence bungles in the country's history.
Israel was at war with Egypt when it hatched a plan in 1954 to ruin its rapprochement with the United States and Britain by firebombing sites frequented by foreigners in Cairo and Alexandria.
But Israeli hopes the attacks, which caused no casualties, would be blamed on local insurgents collapsed when the young Zionist bombers were caught and confessed at public trials. Two were hanged. The rest served jail terms and emigrated to Israel.
Embarrassed before the West, the fledgling Jewish state long denied involvement. It kept mum even after its 1979 peace deal with Egypt, fearing memories of the debacle could sour ties. "Although it is still a sensitive situation, we decided now to express our respect for these heroes," President Moshe Katsav said after presenting the three surviving members of the bomber ring with certificates of appreciation at a Jerusalem ceremony.