With events in Egypt seemingly spiraling out of President Hosni Mubarak’s control, the Foreign Ministry on Saturday evacuated the family members of diplomatic personnel serving in the embassy in Cairo, but stopped well short of pulling out all diplomatic personnel.
A flight carrying the spouses and children of Israeli envoys arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport, along with 40 Israeli citizens who were in Egypt on private business and wanted to return home.
Looting engulfs Cairo, other Egyptian cities
Column One: The pragmatic fantasy
Foreign Ministry official said there were currently no plans to evacuate the Israeli diplomats themselves, including Ambassador Yitzhak Levanon, and that there was no threat to their security.
“There is no need to flee,” one official said. “This is not an option. There are no attacks on our envoys, or on other embassies. The other embassies are also not evacuating their personnel.”
The decision to return the families of diplomats was taken at one of three consultations on the situation in Egypt that were held at the Foreign Ministry on Friday and Saturday.
During those consultations, information coming in from Egypt was evaluated, assessments were made, and then they were passed on to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the government.
Israel, unlike the US and the EU, has made no official comment on the situation inside Egypt, and – both because it does not want to be seen as meddling in any way, and because of the sensitivity of the matter and the massive ramifications the events in Egypt are likely to have on Israel’s strategic situation in the region – is unlikely to do so in the near future.
The Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday night had no comment whatsoever on the events.
On Friday, the Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory recommending that Israelis refrain from “nonessential” travel to Egypt, including to Sinai. Israelis already in Egypt were advised to monitor the situation, abide by the instruction of local authorities and stay away from “open areas.” The National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau urged Israelis to return home.
Senior security officials said that there were a few dozen Israelis currently known to be in Egypt and the Foreign Ministry was working to contact families here to urge their relatives to return home.
“This is not a time to be there,” a senior security official said. “Egypt is currently not a safe place.”
According to the official, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau and the Tourism Ministry were in touch with travel agencies, in an effort to cancel organized tours to Egypt this week.Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.