[Marxism] Rising tensions between Israel and Egypt
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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