Egypt Withdraws Ambassador to Israel Following Shootings

Posted August 20th, 2011 at 7:45 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt is withdrawing its ambassador to Israel to protest the deaths of Egyptian security forces during Israel's retaliatory attacks against militants along the nations' shared border.

The Egyptian Cabinet said Saturday it is withdrawing its ambassador until the results of an Israeli investigation into the incident are provided. The Cabinet said it also wants the Israeli leadership to apologize for what it described as “hasty” remarks about Egypt.

Israel has expressed concern about a deterioration of security in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula since Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned in February. The Israeli military said gunmen behind militant attacks Thursday in southern Israel crossed into the country from Gaza through the Sinai, despite Egypt's boosted security presence in the region.

Egypt says five members of its security forces were killed as Israeli forces went after the gunmen. Cairo lodged a formal protest against Israel Friday.

A senior Israeli defense official says no one had any intention to harm Egyptian security personnel, and he pointed out that the investigation is ongoing.

The Egyptian Cabinet also summoned Israel's ambassador in Cairo for consultations. Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israeli officials were holding discussions on the Egyptian decision.

The incident has raised tensions between the two nations, which share a 1979 peace treaty.

It has been almost 11 years since Egypt last recalled its ambassador to Israel. That decision was taken because of major Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in the Egyptian capital calling for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled because of Thursday's killings.

There have been conflicting reports as to how the Egyptian personnel died. Egypt's official news agency reported that Israeli forces shot the Egyptians while going after the gunmen who killed eight Israelis Thursday.

Meanwhile, retaliatory violence has escalated between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, with Israel conducting airstrikes in Gaza and Palestinians firing rockets into Israel.

Israeli police say rockets fired Saturday wounded at least two Palestinians residing illegally in Israel.

In Gaza, Israeli strikes have killed at least 12 Palestinians, most of them militants.

On Friday, a military wing of the militant group Hamas declared that it is ending a de facto two-year truce with Israel. Hamas controls the Palestinian government in Gaza.