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Egypt on alert, Israeli ambassador on way home after embassy attack

(Xinhua)

12:50, September 10, 2011

CAIRO/JERUSALEM, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Egypt went on high alert early Saturday after protesters raided the Israeli embassy here and clashed with security forces.

Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Levanon, who arrived at Cairo airport with his family and staff under tight security in the wee hours, had flown out of the country aboard an Israeli military aircraft, an airport source told Xinhua.

Egyptian riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets and fired live ammunition in the air in order to disperse the stone-hurling protesters.Several vehicles in the nearby area were set ablaze.

Military forces, including armed vehicles, were also dispatched to the scene, as Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf summoned a cabinet emergency meeting to deal with the situation.

The flare-up of violence grew out of a massive rally in central Cairo on Friday night that saw thousands of Egyptians decry the current governing pattern and demand political reform.

Then the largely peaceful demonstration turned sour when many protesters marched to the Israeli embassy and began attacking the building.

Some dismantled a protective wall outside the embassy, a few climbed up the building and tore down the Israeli nation flag, and some others threw down to the street many documents that bore the watermarks of the Israeli embassy.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was closely following the situation in Cairo, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called his U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta to request help.

The U.S. State Department said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had phoned her Egyptian counterpart and urged the Egyptian side to fulfill its obligation of protecting the Israeli embassy.

Meanwhile, the White House said President Barack Obama had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone that the United States called on the Egyptians to protect the Israeli diplomatic mission.

Egypt became the first Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in 1979, and relations between the two neighboring countries had since been largely calm.

Yet since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled earlier this year, the Egypt-Israel relationship turned tense. The situation worsened in August after Israeli forces killed five Egyptian police officers when chasing Palestinian militants along the border.

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