Egypt’s military rulers vowed on Saturday to try those behind the violence that
drove Israel to evacuate its ambassador from Cairo.
Three people were
killed and 1,049 were wounded in the clashes that began on Friday and raged into
the early hours of Saturday around the tower block housing the embassy, the
Health Ministry said.
Timeline of Israel embassy attack in Cairo
Egypt forces extract Israeli security guards from embassy
“Egypt witnessed a harsh day that inflicted pain
and worry on all Egyptians. It is clear that the behavior of some threatens the
Egyptian revolution,” Information Minister Osama Hassan Heikal
Egypt would transfer those in custody or “involved in inciting or
participating in [Friday’s] events to the emergency state security court,” he
said, adding that Cairo would use emergency laws still in place to protect the
“This was meant to be a day of protest against the way the
country is ruled, and instead all of the attention was shifted to the people who
went to the Israeli Embassy,” Khairi Abaza, a senior fellow at the
Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem Post.
“Egypt’s new rulers need to explain to the Egyptian people the reality of the
treaty with Israel and the consequences of such actions.
“What do we
expect after one of the military commanders goes to speak with the guy who removed the Israeli flag from the embassy a few weeks ago, and treats him like a
hero?” said Abaza, who was raised in Cairo and visits often. “How can you honor
someone who breaks the law?” On August 20, a man scaled the embassy building,
took down Israel’s flag and replaced it with Egypt’s. Protests continued daily,
but did not turn violent until the latest flare-up.
In response to the
protests, the authorities had erected a wall around the building, which was
quickly defaced with anti-Israel slogans and then painted in Egypt’s national
On Friday, the wall was torn down after a demonstration in
Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for speedier reforms and a deeper purge of
officials who worked for Hosni Mubarak, the former president on trial on charges
including conspiring to kill protesters.
Protesters lit tires in the
street and at least two vehicles were set alight near the embassy. Many had come
from a demonstration earlier on Friday in central Cairo calling for the army to
end emergency law and speed up other reforms.
“Our dignity has been
restored,” said Mohi Alaa, 24, a protester near the site of the overnight
clashes, told Reuters. Bits of concrete and bullet casings were strewn over the
street. “We don’t want the Americans’ money,” he said.
protesters stayed after dawn and a few threw stones at police, who gradually
pushed them away and secured the area around the embassy, located on the upper
floors of a residential block overlooking the Nile.
It was the second big
eruption of violence at the embassy since five Egyptian border guards were
killed on August 18 when Israeli forces shot at terrorists who had crossed from
Gaza, via Egyptian territory, into Israel and killed eight Israelis near Eilat.
Egypt then briefly threatened to withdraw its envoy to Israel.
stopped short of apologizing, saying it is still investigating the Egyptian
The information minister’s statement followed a crisis meeting
between Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and other ministers, as well as talks with
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council that has
ruled Egypt since Mubarak resigned on February 11. State television said the
military council rejected Sharaf’s offer to resign.
politicians and activists criticized the violence, even if they backed the
Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy called
for the army to take a “serious stance matching the public anger” toward Israel
but said violence sullied the image of Egypt’s uprising.
preserves a fragile peace, and it’s something that has to be preserved at any
cost,” Abaza told the Post. “Conflict between the two countries is a loss for
both, and there is no reason for a military conflict or for canceling the
treaty. What would Egypt or Israel get out of that?” Reuters contributed to this