Israeli ambassador evacuated as a thousand injured in overnight clashes as protesters demolish wall and storm building.
Source - Al Jazeera
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2011 01:07
A building housing Israel's embassy in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, has been stormed by hundreds of protesters who tore down one of the outer embassy walls.
Protesters demolished the wall, erected to protect the embassy which has become a focus for protests, with makeshift battering rams and hammers on Friday after peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square earlier in the day against the country's military rulers.
Some protesters then scaled the wall of the building, replacing the Israeli flag with Egyptian and Palestinian flags. Others got inside and threw thousands of pieces of paper from upper-floor windows.
Essam Sharaf, the Egyptian prime minister, called a crisis cabinet meeting for Saturday morning, while the interior ministry declared a state of alert.
Yitzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to Egypt, and senior embassy staff were evacuated and flown home to Israel, Israel Radio said.
Hundreds of Egyptian soldiers backed by armoured cars were rushed to the embassy district and clashed with the protesters, who torched police vehicles and attacked regional police headquarters nearby.
Protesters played cat-and-mouse with police throughout the night, amid clouds of tear gas and smoke from burning tyres.
Security forces gradually asserted control and the situation was calm by Saturday morning, although small crowds were still gathered in the area of the embassy, Al Jazeera's Jamal Eshayyal said.
The Egyptian health ministry said there had been 1,049 injuries as a result of clashes around the embassy. State television said 46 police officers and security personnel had been injured, and three people are reported dead.
The group of about 1,000 people that swarmed the embassy had left a mass rally at nearby Tahrir Square, where organised protesters called for reforms by the military, which has ruled the country since Hosni Mubarak, the former president, was toppled in a popular revolution in February.
'Attacking us from all sides'
Nora Shalaby, a protester outside Israel's embassy, justified the protesters' actions.
"I think this is the only way we can get our point across. Here we still have lots of tear gas. There's rubber bullets. They're basically attacking us from all sides," she said, referring to government security forces.
Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros said security forces fired live ammunition into the air as protesters attempted to stom the security headquarters, another focal point for demonstrations.
"As far as we understand these protesters are unarmed, they've been there for hours," our correspondent said.
State television quoted an interior ministry official as saying that "foreign hands" were behind the violence. Egypt's rulers often blame foreigners for unrest in the country.
Israel's ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his family and other embassy staff rushed to Cairo airport and left on a plane for Israel, Egyptian state television and airport officials said.
The state television also reported that Levanon met with a general of the ruling military's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces before his departure, and that the ambassador appeared "anxious and even scared".
Levanon had only recently returned to Cairo from a holiday in Israel as protests raged outside the embassy since last month.
Obama voices US concern
US President Barack Obama was first to react, calling on Egypt to protect the embassy and "to honour its international obligations to safeguard the security of the Israeli Embassy."
A White House statement said that "the President expressed his great concern about the situation at the embassy, and the security of the Israelis serving there".
The statement said that Obama spoke by telephone to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and the two agreed “to stay in close touch until the situation is resolved".
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, also called Mohamed Kamel Amr, Egypt's foreign minister, to urge Egypt to meet its Vienna Convention obligations to protect diplomatic property, a senior state department official said.
Last month, Egyptians staged huge protests outside the embassy and called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador over the border deaths of Egyptian policemen killed as Israel hunted a group of attackers.
Egypt has asked Israel for an official apology and demanded a probe into the deaths of the five policemen.
Israel pulls envoy after embassy attack
Israeli diplomats evacuated from Cairo after Egyptian commandos reportedly rescued them as protesters stormed embassy.
Source - Al Jazeera
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2011 07:45
Israel's ambassador to Egypt and senior staff have been evacuated home after protesters broke into a building containing the country's embassy in Cairo on Friday night, adding further strain to already tense relations between the neighbours.
A plane carrying Yitzhak Levanon, the ambassador, and others landed in Israel on Saturday, Israel Radio reported, as an Israeli diplomat condemned the attack as a "serious violation" of diplomatic behaviour.
Israel's consul for state affairs was left behind to maintain its embassy, as Israel weighed its formal response to the attack by dozens of protesters on the building that houses its diplomatic mission.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu, condemned the attack saying the incident inflicted a "severe injury to the fabric of peace with Israel.''
An aide to Netanyahu said that the Israeli leader denounced the attack on the embassy as a "serious incident'' and a "blatant violation of international norms."
Israel's Ynet news website said Netanyahu thanked the US President Barack Obama. "The mob attack on the Israeli embassy is a serious incident but could have been worse had the rioters managed to get through the last door and hurt our people," Ynet quoted Netanyahu as saying.
"I'm glad we managed to prevent a disaster and would like to thank the US President Barack Obama for his help," he said.
The AFP news agency reported that Egyptian commandos had entered the embassy building to escort six Israeli citizens to safety.
Israeli public radio said the six rescued men were security officers.
Egyptian officials said three people had been killed and more than 1,000 people injured in clashes between protesters and security forces near the embassy, following earlier peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
Obama earlier had called on Egypt to "honour its international obligations" to protect the diplomats and told Netanyahu, that Washington was taking steps to resolve the situation.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, also spoke with Mohamed Kamel Amr, the Egyptian foreign minister, who cut short a trip to Poland as Essam Sharaf, the Egyptian prime minister, called a crisis cabinet meeting.
An Israeli government official who wanted to remain anonymous told the Al Jazeera bureau in Jerusalem that Israel was grateful to Obama and Egyptian government for helping to resolve the situation.
'Serious violation of diplomatic behaviour'
But he said the incident was a blow to Israeli-Egyptian relations and a "serious violation of accepted diplomatic behavior".
"This could have been a real tragedy, We are thankful to all who helped resolve this matter. Over the last few hours there was a real concern for the lives of our people," said the government official.
Pulling its diplomats even temporarily out of Egypt would represent another regional setback for Israel which has already seen relations with Turkey, another erstwhile regional ally, turn sour amid Turkish anger over last year's deadly raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound flotilla .
The Israeli embassy has been a focus for protests in Cairo amid a downturn in relations since Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, was ousted from power in February.
Five Egyptian border guards were killed last month during an Israeli operation against suspected gunmen who killed eight Israeli citizens, prompting Egypt briefly to threaten to withdraw its ambassador.
And diplomatic ties aren't the only thing at stake, Israel imports about forty percent of its natural gas from Egypt.
Some Egyptians say Israel pays too little for the gas, and the pipeline that connects the two countries has been attacked several times this year alone.
Also - Inside Story: Are Turkey and Israel on a collision course?