(JNS.org) Israel on Sunday returned two ancient sarcophagus covers to Egypt in a sign of goodwill between the two nations, which have maintained a fragile political peace since 1979 but have seen increasingly warm relations in recent years.
One of the covers dates back to between 1600 and 1300 BC, and the other from 900 to 700 BC. Both have lids that are painted with faces and decorations.
The covers were looted and smuggled into Israel at an unspecified time, coming into the hands of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which kept them in climate-controlled storage. In a ceremony on Sunday, Israel returned the covers to Egypt, handing them to Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat.
"The return of the Egyptian [artifacts] is symbolic, more than anything, of the changing relations [between] Israel and Egypt," Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold told Reuters.
Khairat, who expressed Egypt’s appreciation for the return of the covers, in January assumed his role as the country's first envoy to Israel since 2012. Israel-Egypt ties have improved under the leadership of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who overthrew Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.