Egyptians attack Israel embassy, ambassador evacuated

CAIRO,  (Reuters) – Hundreds of Egyptians stormed the  building housing Israel’s mission in Cairo and threw embassy  documents and its national flag from windows, while state  television said today that Israel’s envoy, his family and  staff had been flown home.

The Interior Ministry said at least 450 protesters were  injured during a day of confrontations with police, who used  teargas and fired in the air in an effort to disperse them.  State television said 46 police were injured.

Protesters tear down a concrete wall built in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo yesterday. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

It was the second time the embassy was attacked since five  Egyptian border guards were killed last month by Israelis during  an operation against gunmen. That incident prompted Egypt  briefly to threaten to withdraw its envoy.

Pulling Israeli diplomats even temporarily out of Egypt, the  first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state,  will shake Israel’s confidence. It is already embroiled in a  bitter feud with Turkey, formerly the closest of its few Muslim  allies, over treatment of Palestinians.

The Cairo demonstrations continued well into the early  morning hours, with police confronting at least 2,000 protesters  near the embassy, a witness said.

They fired teargas and fired in the air to disperse the  crowds. Protesters lit fires in the street using tyres, threw  petrol bombs and stones and set at least two police vehicles  alight.

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf summoned his cabinet  crisis team, which was to meet early on Saturday, state media  said, while the Interior Ministry put police on alert and  cancelled police holidays.

Protesters use a light pole to knock down a concrete wall built in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo yesterday. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

U.S. President Barack Obama called on Egypt to “honour its  international obligations” and protect the Israeli mission after  protesters, who had been demonstrating at Tahrir Square to push  for a timetable for reforms and an end to military trials for  civilians, smashed up a wall protecting the embassy building.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Egyptian  Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to urge Egypt to meet its  Vienna Convention obligations to protect diplomatic property, a  senior State Department official said.

Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon left Cairo early on  Saturday, Egyptian state television said. State media earlier  reported that an Israeli plane had arrived in Cairo to take the  ambassador, his family and staff back to Israel.

Israel said it had asked the United States for help in  guarding the embassy, located on the upper floors of an  apartment block overlooking the Nile. Extra police and army  vehicles had been sent to the area to protect it.

Activists who spearheaded the uprising that ousted President  Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11 have piled pressure on the ruling  military council to fix a date for parliamentary and  presidential elections and to get rid of senior officials who  served under Mubarak.

Thousands had converged on Tahrir Square, the centre of the  pro-democracy protests that toppled Mubarak, after Friday  prayers for what was billed as “Correcting the Path” protests.

Some later marched to the opposite bank of the Nile in Giza.  Demonstrators used hammers, large iron bars and police  barricades to tear down the wall, erected this month by Egyptian  authorities after daily protests over the killing of five  Egyptian border guards in Sinai.

The five died during an Israeli operation against gunmen who  had killed eight Israelis. Egypt threatened to withdraw its  ambassador from Tel Aviv. Israel has stopped short of  apologising, saying it is still investigating how the Egyptian  troops were killed.

Protesters scaled the embassy building, removed the Israeli  flag for the second time in less than a month and burned it.
Some also tried to break into the embassy and reached the  entrance hall but had not entered inside the mission itself,  Israeli and Egyptian officials said.

“The embassy itself has not been breached,” an Israeli  Foreign Ministry official told Reuters in Jerusalem. An Egyptian  security source confirmed that the embassy offices had not been  entered.

The demonstrators also tried to storm the local police  compound, hurled stones at the police and torched at least four  vehicles.

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