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Israel, Egypt try to stem embassy riot damage
From the Egyptian side, the ruling military council and civilian government underlined in a statement read on state TV that Egypt is committed to international conventions and the protection of diplomatic missions.
They also vowed to crack down on future protests at the embassy, warning that Egypt was experiencing a “real predicament that threatens the very body of the state that requires decisive actions.” To “safeguard the state,” they said they would re-invigorate parts of hated emergency laws, which for months the military has promised to abolish in a concession to demands for reform.
Mubarak was a close ally of the Israelis, building economic ties and cooperating with them on security, particularly helping in the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Since his Feb. 11 fall, ties between the two countries have steadily worsened as Egypt’s new military rulers ease off his pro-Israeli policies, including opening the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Anger flared last month after the deaths of the five Egyptian police officers in Sinai, killed by Israeli forces chasing Gaza militants who carried out a deadly attack in Israel. Mass protests flares in Cairo, demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. The military nearly pulled Egypt’s ambassador to Israel in protest. Calls have even grown in Egypt for ending the historic 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
The deterioration with Egypt comes as Israel has also been hit by a major downturn in ties with longtime Turkey. After Israel refused to apologize for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year that killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American, Turkey expelled several senior Israeli diplomats, suspended military cooperation with Israel and boosted naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean in response.
Israel is also feeling the heat from Palestinian plans to unilaterally seek recognition of an independent state at the United Nations this month amid a long stalemate in the peace process. Israelis also fear that the Arab spring could bring rising influence to Islamic fundamentalists in the region.
For Egypt, the rioting could worsen ties between the ruling military and young protest activists, who are sharply critical of its handling of the post-Mubarak transition. Increased use of emergency laws is likely to anger many.
Clashes outside the embassy lasted for hours when police and military finally moved in, leaving three people dead, more than 1,000 hurt and 30 arrested. Police and army troops fired tear gas and shot live ammunition in the air trying to disperse the crowd of thousands, as cars, police vehicles and trees on the streets were set ablaze.
Saturday morning, the streets around the embassy were littered with debris and charred cars. Dozens of police vehicles and armored troop carriers lined up the streets leading to the embassy and the nearby police headquarters in Giza.
Hadid reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press Writer Aya Batrawy in Cairo contributed to this report.
By Brahma Chellaney
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