[Marxism] Rising tensions between Israel and Egypt

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 20 06:59:48 MDT 2011


Egypt withdraws ambassador to Israel after three soldiers killed

Diplomatic row escalates as Israel accuses Egypt of having lost control 
of Sinai region to terrorists

by Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem

Egypt is to withdraw its ambassador to Israel as tensions between the 
two allies rose sharply following Thursday's cross-border attack by 
suspected Palestinian militants in which at least three Egyptian 
soldiers were killed.

The fallout from the attack continued to spiral, both in terms of a 
diplomatic breach with Israel's strategically vital neighbour and 
continued exchanges of rocket and missile fire between Gaza and Israel.

Egypt demanded an apology for Israel's "hasty and regrettable 
statements" about the security situation in the Sinai, from where 
Thursday's attack was launched. Following the attack, Israel's defence 
minister, Ehud Barak, spoke of "the weakening Egyptian grip on Sinai and 
the widening operation of terrorists there" and Israeli officials 
briefed that Egypt had lost control of the area.

Egypt also demanded an investigation into the deaths of its soldiers, 
who were killed when Israeli forces chased the militants across the border.

The incident unleashed a wave of anti-Israel feeling in Cairo. 
Protesters gathered outside the Israeli embassy following Friday 
prayers, waving Palestinian flags and chanting "Death to Israel".

Amr Moussa, the former head of Arab League and an Egyptian presidential 
candidate, said: "Israel and any other [country] must understand that 
the day our sons get killed without a strong and appropriate response is 
gone and will not come back."

In a statement, the Egyptian government said: "The cabinet committee has 
decided to withdraw the Egyptian ambassador in Israel until the result 
of investigations by the Israeli authorities is provided and an apology 
from the Israeli leadership over the hasty and regrettable statements 
about Egypt is given.

"Egypt deplores the irresponsible and hasty statements made by some 
leaders in Israel, which lack wisdom and prudence and passes judgment 
before arriving at the truth, particularly keeping in mind the 
sensitivity of Egyptian-Israeli relations."

Israeli government officials were meeting today to consider their 
response to Egypt's move. "We have seen the communique and we are 
holding internal consultations on how to proceed," said foreign ministry 
spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Attempts to ameliorate the diplomatic rupture were already under way. 
Amos Gilad of the Israeli defence ministry told Israel Radio that 
"nobody in the security establishment or the IDF had any intention of 
harming Egyptian policemen or soldiers". Peace between the two countries 
was "fundamental" and a "strategic asset".

Israeli officials insisted the two countries were co-operating in the 
aftermath of Thursday's attack. "At an army and defence ministry level 
we are working together. It's in our mutual interests," said one.

Since the fall of the Mubarak regime in February, Israel has been 
worried about the future of its relations with one of the only two Arab 
countries with whom it has signed a peace treaty. Mubarak was considered 
a friend of Israel and kept the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which has 
strong connections to Hamas in Gaza, in check.

Israel fears that the post-Mubarak regime will be more sympathetic to 
Hamas and could even revoke the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. "They 
feel the need to respond to the [Arab] street," said an Israeli 
government official. "Instead of calming things down, they are being 
dragged." The Egyptian statement was "a very dismal development", he said.

Israel blamed Thursday's attacks on Palestinian militants who it said 
had entered Egypt through tunnels from Gaza, travelled around 200km 
through the Sinai and entered Israel about 20km north of Eilat. Six 
Israeli civilians, two Israeli soldiers and seven militants were killed 
in gun fire and explosions.

A senior Israeli military officer said it was possible that some 
Egyptian soldiers may have been killed accidentally by Israeli fire 
during the fighting. "It is a possibility that it happened by mistake," 
he said. Some of the attackers might have been wearing Egyptian army or 
police uniforms, he added.

Egyptian officials suggested their soldiers were killed in gunfire from 
an Israeli helicopter which was pursuing militants across the border.

Israeli concern about security in the Sinai, a vast area of desert 
mainly inhabited by Bedouin, has been growing since the fall of Mubarak. 
They claim the Egyptian government has lost control of the area, which 
has become a haven for terrorists and criminals. A vital gas pipeline 
which supplies Israel has been sabotaged several times in recent months.

The cycle of rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes continued 
today. According to the IDF, at least six rockets landed in southern 
Israel during the morning, with one seriously injuring three 
Palestinians who were working illegally in the city of Ashdod. About 30 
rockets were fired on Friday.

Israeli warplanes continued to target sites in Gaza, killing three 
people overnight. Three children aged two, five and 13 are among the 15 
people killed in airstrikes since Thursday, according to Palestinian 

Hamas's military wing said it was calling off a truce with Israel in 
place since early 2009. However, a Hamas political spokesman denied this 
had been agreed. The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, called on 
Egypt and the UN to intervene "to stop the aggression on Gaza".

The Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committee, which Israel claims was 
behind Thursday's attack, denied involvement but said its militants had 
fired rockets on Friday. Israeli airstrikes have killed at least five 
leaders of the PRC in the past two days.

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