It Started !

Israeli Ambassador Flees After  Egyptians Ransack Embassy in Cairo

Published September 09, 2011

| Associated Press



Sept. 9: Some hundreds of Egyptian activists demolish a concrete  wall built around a building housing the Israeli embassy in Cairo, Egypt, to  protect it against demonstrators, as they raise their national flag.

CAIRO –  Protesters broke into the Israeli Embassy in Cairo Friday and  dumped documents out of the windows as hundreds more demonstrated outside,  prompting the ambassador and his family to leave the country. The unrest was a  further worsening of already deteriorating ties between Israel and post-Hosni  Mubarak Egypt.

Egyptian police made no attempt to intervene during  the day as crowds of hundreds tore down an embassy security wall with  sledgehammers and their bare hands or after nightfall when about 30 protesters  stormed into the Nile-side high-rise building where the embassy is located.

Just before midnight, the group of protesters  reached a room on one of the embassy’s lower floors at the top of the building  and began dumping Hebrew-language documents from the windows, said an Egyptian  security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not  authorized to speak to the media.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli official confirmed the  embassy had been broken into, saying it appeared the group reached a waiting  room on the lower floor. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not  permitted to release the information.

Israel’s ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his family and  other embassy staff rushed to Cairo airport and left on a military plane for  Israel, said airport officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they  were not authorized to speak to the media.

Israeli officials refused to comment on the  ambassador’s departure. No one answered the phone at the embassy late  Friday.

Since the fall of Mubarak — who worked closely with  the Israelis — in February, ties have steadily worsened between the two  countries. Anger increased last month after Israeli forces responding to a  cross-border militant attack mistakenly killed five Egyptian police officers  near the border. Egypt nearly withdrew its ambassador from Israel, and  protesters demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Calls have grown in  Egypt for ending the historic 1979 peace treaty with Israel, a pact that has  never had the support of ordinary Egyptians.

Several large protests have taken place outside the  embassy in recent months without serious incident.

On Friday, Egyptians held their first significant  demonstrations in a month against the country’s military rulers, with thousands  gathering in Cairo and other cities. Alongside those gatherings, a crowd massed  outside the Israeli Embassy’s building.

It quickly escalated with crowds pummeling the  graffiti-covered security wall with sledgehammers and tearing away large  sections of the cement and metal barrier, which was recently put up by Egyptian  authorities to better protect the site from protests.

For the second time in less than a month, protesters  were able to get to the top of the building and pull down the Israeli flag. They  replaced it with the Egyptian flag.

Crowds outside the building photographed documents  that drifted to the ground and posted some of them online.

Mustafa Sayid said he was among the group of  protesters who broke into the embassy. He showed a reporter cell phone video  footage he said he recorded inside of young men ransacking the room.

The group got into the building through a  third-floor window and climbed the stairs to the embassy. They worked for hours  to break through three doors to enter the embassy, said the 28-year-old man.  They encountered three Israelis and beat one of them.

Several Egyptian military policemen appeared and  escorted the Israelis to safety but did not attempt to arrest any of the  protesters, who then set about dumping files out the windows, he said.

“They have papers on us, they collect information on  us, so it’s only fair that we share information on them,” he said.

It was not until several hours later that Egyptian  police and military forces firing tear gas moved in to try to disperse the  protesters from around the embassy. By that time, the crowds of youths had  swelled to several thousand. Protesters were cleared from inside the building  but held their ground outside, lobbing firebombs at the forces and setting fire  to several police vehicles.

The military moved about 20 tanks and troop  transport trucks into the area. State radio reported that one person died of a  heart attack. About 450 people were injured, including 200 who had to be  hospitalized, the Health Ministry said.

In Washington, President Barack Obama assured  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. was acting “at all  levels” to resolve the situation.

Obama expressed “great concern” about the situation,  the White House said.

Senior Israeli officials were holding discussions on  the embassy breach. Israeli Defense Minster Ehud Barak said in a statement that  he also spoke with his American counterpart, Leon Panetta, and appealed to him  to do what he could to protect the embassy.

The demonstrations against Israel coincide with  increasing discontent among Egyptians with the Supreme Council of the Armed  Forces, which took control of the country when Mubarak was forced out on Feb. 11  after nearly three decades in power.

Several thousand massed Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir  Square, as well as in the cities of Alexandria, Suez and elsewhere.  Demonstrators in Cairo also converged on the state TV building, a central  courthouse and the Interior Ministry, a hated symbol of abuses by police and  security forces under Mubarak. Protesters covered one of the ministry’s gates  with graffiti and tore off parts of the large ministry seal.

Seven months after the popular uprising that drove  Mubarak from power, Egyptians are still pressing for a list of changes,  including more transparent trials of former regime figures accused of corruption  and a clear timetable for parliamentary elections.

Activists accuse the council, headed by Mubarak’s  defense minister, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, of remaining too close to  Mubarak’s regime and practicing similarly repressive policies, including abusing  detainees. The trials of thousands of civilians in military courts has also  angered activists.

“In the beginning we were with the military because  they claimed to be protectors of the revolution, but month after month nothing  has changed,” said doctor Ghada Nimr, one of those who gathered in Tahrir  Square.

One banner in Cairo read, “Egyptians, come out of  your homes, Tantawi is Mubarak.”

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