Israeli anger as Egyptian leaders turn 'blind eye' to embassy riot
Published 12/09/2011 | 05:00
ON the day the rest of the world commemorated September 11, Egypt's military leaders have been accused of turning a blind eye to the mob attack on Israel's Cairo embassy at the weekend.
It also emerged last night that Cairo ignored repeated telephone calls from the Obama administration on the matter.
Tensions were already running high in the build-up to the anniversary of 9/11 when six Israeli security guards were left to fend off an angry mob rampaging through the mission.
US defence secretary Leon Panetta tried for two hours to get hold of Egypt's de-facto head of state Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to demand an immediate rescue operation.
Israeli officials claim aides told Mr Panetta that the general could not be found.
The response prompted fury in Washington, and threats of US retribution.
The field marshal's mysterious disappearance intensified speculation that Egypt's generals failed to protect the embassy for political gain.
The armed forces, which are running Egypt until a civilian government is elected at the end of the year, are thought to be desperate to retain power and influence.
Officials in Israel, as well as a number of political activists in Cairo, have claimed that Field Marshal Tantawi turned down an opportunity to rein in the attack in order to prove that, without a strong army, Egypt would descend into violence and anarchy.
Israel was forced to send military aircraft to Cairo to evacuate its ambassador and more than 80 diplomats after a mob, angered by the killing of three Egyptian border guards by Israeli forces last month, laid siege to the embassy.
As the Egyptian police and army stood by, unwilling or unable to intervene, the rioters ransacked the building.
Mr Panetta was able to reach Field Marshal Tantawi shortly after 1am on Saturday, warning the Egyptian of "serious consequences" if any of the Israelis was killed.
From inside the building a guard identified only as Jonathan told the prime minister that the mob had smashed its way through two of three doors to the embassy's strong room, inside which the six guards had barricaded themselves.
The six men were rescued by Egyptian commandos at the last moment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)