Israeli Ambassador Flees Protests in Egypt; 3 Killed, 1000 Hurt

The Israeli ambassador to Egypt was rescued and flown to his country Friday night after protesters stormed the embassy in Cairo.

Protesters clashed with security forces, leaving at least three killed and over 1,000 injured by early Saturday.

Violence at the Israeli mission in Cairo erupted Friday night and continued until dawn on Saturday, leaving an estimated 1,049 injured, the al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported. While 217 people were hospitalized, 832 received first aid at the protest venue.

Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Levanon, his family and senior staff were evacuated after some protesters broke into the embassy compound, Al Jazeera reported. A plane carrying the ambassador and his staff landed in Israel early Saturday, Israel Radio said.

Many of the protesters were carrying hammers and metal bars to break down a recently-built security wall, according to the Jerusalem Post. They destroyed portions of the wall, lowered the Israeli flag and threw documents out of the windows.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack saying it inflicted a “severe injury to the fabric of peace with Israel," according to Al Jazeera.

Apprehending tensions, U.S. President Barack Obama had urged Cairo to honor its international obligations to protect the Israeli diplomats and assured the Israeli prime minister that America was making efforts to resolve the situation.

Relations between Egypt and Israel soured especially after Israeli forces killed five Egyptian police officers near the border allegedly by mistake in August during a cross-border militant attack. Many Egyptians are demanding repeal of Cairo’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Al Jazeera quoted an anonymous Israeli government official as saying that Israel was grateful to President Obama and the Egyptian government for helping resolve the situation. However, he added that the attack 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,” the official was quoted as saying.

Egyptian groups, including “I’m a Pro-Intifada Egyptian” and “Egyptian Unity,” had called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador after he returned to Cairo Monday from a visit to Tel Aviv, recalling the Egyptian ambassador to Israel and breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza with permanent opening of the Rafah border crossing, according to al-Masry al-Youm.

Pulling out diplomats even temporarily out of Egypt would amount to 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, Al Jazeera warned.