Egyptian commandos helped rescue six guards inside the Israeli embassy in Cairo early Saturday morning, after dozens of people among thousands of protestors stormed the building. The crowd had smashed through a newly-erected security wall and was separated from the Israelis by one metal door.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's 80-year-old Islamist society which is poised to gain considerable power in upcoming elections, blamed Israel for the violence and breach of sovereign diplomatic ground.
"The slowness and negligence about the rights of our martyr soldiers killed by the Zionists at the border, the not adopting a decisive stand, wavering on the withdrawal of the Egyptian Ambassador, and the Zionist arrogance in refusing to even apologize, as well as the building of a big concrete wall to protect the Embassy were most important reasons that led to the explosion of national sentiment in the hearts of the Egyptians," a statement on the Brotherhood's website said. "The remedy for that lies in the authority, whether the interim authority now or the coming civil authority, responding to the will of the people and respecting their dignity."
Israel did apologize for the deaths of six Egyptian soldiers killed after being caught in the crossfire last month after terrorists fled from a coordinated attack near Eilat in southern Israel. Gaza-based terrorists were blamed for the attack, which killed eight Israelis, but an investigation also found at least three Egyptians were involved. Egyptian press outlets accused Israel of being behind the attacks, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed concern over the attack on his country's embassy, but tried to strike a calmer tone. In a speech, he thanked the United States for helping urge the Egyptian army to intervene, and he thanked the commandos for rescuing the Israeli citizens.
"The Middle East is now undergoing a political earthquake of historic proportions," he said. "…In the face of this historic turmoil we must act coolly and with responsibility." It is in Egypt and Israel's interests to preserve their peace treaty, he added, calling again for direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
"Regarding this negotiation, I believe that many people today in our nation and around the world who see what is happening in our area will understand our justified stance in defending our security interests in any future agreement."
A small group of protestors returned to the embassy Saturday, the Brotherhood website reported.
"Down, down Israel" and "Down with the State of pigs" were among the crowd's chants.