Egyptian Security Forces on High Alert Following Attack on Israeli Embassy

Posted September 10th, 2011 at 7:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Egyptian security forces are on high alert following an emergency meeting of the country's government Saturday to deal with the aftermath of an attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

After the urgent closed-door session called by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, Information Minister Osama Heikal said authorities will take all necessary measures to preserve order in the country. He said the unrest was an attack on Egypt's image, adding “it is clear that the behavior of some threatens the entire Egyptian state.”

Heikal's warning came a day after a large crowd stormed the Israeli embassy and tore down a protective wall before breaking through Egyptian Army positions defending the premises. The rioting lasted into the early hours Saturday. Later in the day, protesters made a second attempt to break into the building.

Egyptian officials say at least three people were killed in the clashes, more than 1,000 others wounded, and several people arrested.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, calling it a blatant violation of international norms that severely harms peaceful relations with Israel. But he also thanked Egyptian commandos for rescuing six Israelis trapped inside the embassy during the melee and said Israel will stand by its peace agreements with Egypt.

The U.S. State Department expressed deep concern about the attack on the Israeli embassy. A statement issued Saturday said Israel and Egypt are key partners and allies of the United States, and both countries have made clear their continuing commitment to maintain their bilateral relations and the peace treaty, which remains a cornerstone of regional stability.

It said the United States remains strongly committed to doing all it can to support this relationship and that U.S. officials are in continued contact with their Egyptian and Israeli counterparts.

The Israeli government said it was working with Egypt to return the embassy staff to Cairo as soon as possible, adding its deputy ambassador remains in Egypt to keep up diplomatic contact.

Diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt have been tense since Israeli forces mistakenly killed five Egyptian police officers last month near the border while responding to a cross-border militant attack.

Public anger over that event has escalated in Egypt. Also, there have been heightened calls for Egypt to end its historic 1979 peace treaty with Israel since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's February resignation.