Saturday, September 10, 2011

Egyptian commandos rescue six Israelis from Cairo embassy mob, but the diplomatic danger is growing

Egyptian commandos stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo to rescued six staffers trapped by a violent mob that had launched a spectacular assault on the building under the noses of Egypt's security forces.

The dramatic operation in the early hours of Saturday morning came after Israeli officials appealed for US intervention in a series of frantic telephone calls made as thousands of angry protesters laid siege to the mission.

Baying their hatred of Israel, the mob broke through the building's defences, smashing down a perimeter wall with sledgehammers before marauding through the consular section of the embassy, destroying papers and smashing windows.

The unprecedented attack, which follows days of protests after Israeli troops chasing suspected militants accidentally shot dead at least three Egyptian border guards last month, prompted the swift evacuation of all but one of the embassy's staff. The deputy ambassador volunteered to remain behind as Israel's sole diplomat in Egypt.

The ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his colleagues and their families were flown out of the country in two Israeli military aircraft hastily despatched to Cairo's international airport.

They left in their wake not just the ruins of Israel's oldest embassy in the Arab world, but a diplomatic crisis that leaves the future of the Middle East facing renewed uncertainty. more