In the latest escalation of the ongoing diplomatic crisis between still-getting-on-its-feet Egypt and neighboring Israel, protesters in Cairo attacked the Israeli embassy there, leaving three dead and over a thousand wounded. Israel immediately brought home its ambassador and most of the embassy staff, while Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf offered his resignation to the country’s interim ruling military council. (Sharaf’s offer was rejected.) This anti-Israel — and, going by Reuters interviews with protesters in Cairo, anti-U.S.— groundswell may be an alarming caution to those hoping the Arab Spring would enact Western-oriented democratic governments in the region. Don’t forget, we were mighty chummy with Hosni Mubarak and several of the other authoritarian leaders opposed by the wave of populist uprisings. And while the Libyans may feel friendly toward us for our and NATO’s help in bombing Muammar Qaddafi to a pulp, our assistance hasn’t been so forthcoming in other conflicts in the area.
Update I: Cairo-based journalist Ghazala Irshad uploaded this video of protesters tearing down the barrier protecting the Israeli embassy using a homemade battering ram.
Update II: Reports now reveal that Egyptian commandos rescued six Israeli security officers from the Cairo embassy as protesters stormed through the complex. According to an Israeli official who spoke with the AFP today: “There was real concern for their lives. There was one wall between them [and the protesters.]” In response, the Egyptian authorities reauthorized the emergency law that deposed President Hosni Mubarak had used to try and quell the Arab Spring protests in the country. A CNN producer based in Egypt tweeted that from now on protests will need “permission, location, time, date, purpose, and ppl [sic] expected.”
Update III: Ivan Watson, a CNN reporter on the ground in Cairo tweeted earlier today that the mob that eventually invaded the Israeli embassy also attacked a female Egyptian TV journalist, who they claimed was an Israeli spy. (Watson mentions the woman was saved by the same CNN producer mentioned in Update II.)
Update IV: The BBC reported remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few hours ago confirming that Israel will continue to adhere to its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
Israel envoy leaves Cairo after embassy attack [Reuters]
Egypt says committed to protecting embassies and upholding emergency law [Al Arabiya News]
Related: Israeli-Egyptian Relations Tense After Border Shoot-Out