Israel evacuates ambassador to Egypt after embassy attack


8 Jun 2011
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Israel has evacuated its Egyptian ambassador after crowds stormed the embassy in Cairo, plunging Egypt's ruling army deeper into its worst diplomatic crisis since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian prime minister Essam Sharaf is holding a crisis cabinet meeting and a state of alert has been declared as protesters remain on the streets following the violence on Friday, burning tyres and chanting slogans against the governing military council.

A senior Egyptian official says at least three people died and more than 1,000 were hurt during street clashes with police and army troops after an angry mob attacked the embassy building.

Deputy health minister, Hamid Abaza, says one of the three fatalities in the violence late on Friday was a man who died of a heart attack.

Abaza told The Associated Press on Saturday he doesn't know the cause of the other two deaths. He says at least 1,093 people were injured in the clashes.

The protesters pelted the police and the military with rocks, prompting the troops to fire tear gas and shoot into the air. Only 38 of the injured remained in hospital.

Earlier, the protesters tore down a security wall outside the Israeli mission and stormed the embassy's offices.

Police fired shots in the air and teargas to disperse the crowd. Early on Saturday morning around 500 demonstrators remained near the embassy, which overlooks the Nile, and a few threw stones at police and army vehicles. But police gradually pushed them back and secured the area.

An Israeli official said the rampage marked a further deterioration of diplomatic ties between Israel and Egypt since the fall of Mubarak.

The Israeli ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his family and most of the staff and their dependents some 80 people were evacuated out of the country by military aircraft overnight, the official added. Only the deputy ambassador remains in Egypt.

"That the government of Egypt ultimately acted to rescue our people is noteworthy and we are thankful," the official said. "But what happened is a blow to the peaceful relations, and of course, a grave violation of accepted diplomatic behaviour between sovereign states."

The incident was the second major eruption of violence at the embassy since five Egyptian border guards were killed last month during an Israeli operation against gunmen. That incident prompted Egypt briefly to threaten to withdraw its envoy.

"This action shows the state of anger and frustration the young Egyptian revolutionaries feel against Israel especially after the recent Israeli attacks on the Egyptian borders that led to the killing of Egyptian soldiers," Egyptian political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah said.

Israel is already embroiled in a diplomatic feud with Turkey, formerly one of its closest allies, over Israel's armed assault on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which nine people were killed.

Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy called for the army to take a "serious stance matching the public anger" towards Israel but said violence sullied the image of Egypt's uprising.

Last month a man climbed up a flagpole on the Israeli embassy and took down the flag, replacing it with the Egyptian flag. Protests continued until Friday's violence.
Source: Guardian Uk
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