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Egypt recalls its ambassador from Israel

Translated Saturday 27 August 2011, by Harry Cross and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Egypt has decided to recall its ambassador to Israel in protest against the deaths of five of its border police. This is the first diplomatic crisis between the two countries since the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in February.

It was announced by state television that “"Egypt has decided to withdraw its ambassador to Israel until there is an official apology," by the Israeli state.
The Egyptian government, in a communication published by the official agency MENA, called for “an official apology from the Israelis” after a meeting of the emergency committee the night of Friday to Saturday.

It’s the second time that Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel in 1979, recalls its ambassador from Israel. Cairo had already done so in November 2000 to protest against the “excessive usage of force” by Israel against Palestinians after the outbreak of the Second Intifada.

In Israel discussions have been initiated regarding Egypt’s decision, according to a declaration by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

According to MENA, the Minister of Information Osama Heykal confirmed that five policemen had been killed "inside Egyptian territory as the result of an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and armed elements inside Israeli territory."

On television, Egypt also “denounced irresponsible declarations made by certain influential Israelis,” without specifying further.

The [Egyptian] government confirmed in its communication that “Egypt is capable of defending its borders and assuring the security of the Sinai.” “The security of the Egyptian-Israeli border is the common responsibility of both parties, not only of Egypt”. The government furthermore ordered the Minister of Foreign Affairs to “call on the Israeli Ambassador in Cairo to notify him of Egypt’s protestation.”

The Israeli Ambassador will also be notified of “a demand to instigate an official public inquiry into the circumstances [regarding the death of the five Egyptian border police] and to identify the responsible party before taking judiciary action in order to preserve the rights of the victims, and other injured Egyptians.”

Cairo had already officially criticised on Friday Israel’s call for a more rushed and urgent enquiry.

In Cairo, several hundreds of enraged Egyptians spent the night in front of the Israeli embassy, calling for the expulsion of the ambassador. Gathered outside the building adjacent to the embassy, which was protected by army tanks and several police cordons, the protesters cried “Sinai, Sinai! Down with Israel!”

The Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had confirmed in an earlier message, published on his Facebook page, that “Egyptian blood is too precious to be spilt without a response.” “Our glorious revolution took place so that Egypt could regain its dignity internally as well as externally; what was accepted in Egypt before the revolution will no longer be [accepted] in the Egypt of post-revolution,” he added.

The military junta in power since February and the fall of President Hosni Mubarak confirmed in a communication on Friday that they were carrying out “a global investigation into the recent events in Sinai near the Egyptian border and would react in the appropriate manner as soon the investigation is completed.”

The Egyptian army has been leading military operations against Islamists in the Sinai and has made multiple arrests.

The death of Egyptian police officers at the Israeli border took place after attacks that left eight dead in the south of Israel on Thursday. The Israeli state attributed these attacks to a radical Palestinian group in Gaza.

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