"The Middle East is now undergoing a political earthquake of historic
proportions," Netanyahu said in a televised address.
"Egypt witnessed a harsh day that inflicted pain and worry on all
Egyptians," Egyptian Information Minister Osama Hassan Heikal said. "It is
clear that the behavior of some threatens the Egyptian revolution."
Officials acknowledged that police failed to stop the rioters who for
hours hammered away at the concrete barrier erected to protect the Israeli
embassy. After direct appeals from the United States, including President
Barack Obama, Egyptian commandos were sent to rescue the Israeli security
guards — holed up in an embassy room — and at least three of the rioters
were killed. The Israelis then left the building in Arab headdress and robes
to prevent their identification by the mob outside.
An Egyptian government statement condemned the Islamist attack. The
statement was broadcast on Sept. 10 after an emergency session between the
military regime and the civilian government, Middle East Newsline reported. At one point, officials said,
the entire Cabinet, complaining of a lack of authority, threatened to
The Egyptian commandos were sent after a huge police force was mobilized
to remove the protesters. For hours, both sides clashed, with police firing
ammunition and tear gas in what the Health Ministry said resulted in three
dead and more than 1,000 injured.
The Islamists torched several police vehicles while others tried to
storm a nearby security headquarters. Officials said 30 people were
"Those involved in inciting or participating in the events will be
referred to the emergency state security court," Heikal said.
Officials said Netanyahu's appeal to Obama took place after the Israeli
prime minister failed to reach Egyptian military leader Hussein Tantawi.
They said Tantawi, also defense minister, refused to take Netanyahu's phone
call as the mob broke into the embassy building. At one point, Netanyahu did
manage to reach Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Murad Muwafi.
"I asked for his [Obama's] help," Netanyahu recalled. "This was a
decisive and fateful moment. He said, 'I will do everything I can.' And so
he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States
to help us."
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Sept. 11 that U.S. Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta tried to reach Tantawi for two hours. When Tantawi
finally took the call, Panetta was said to have demanded immediate Egyptian
action to rescue the Israeli staffers.
Netanyahu said Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon and his staff left
Egypt. The only remaining diplomat was Levanon's deputy, who was formally
representing Israel's interests in Egypt.
"We are working together with the Egyptian government to quickly return
our ambassador to Cairo," Netanyahu said. "I wish to make sure that the
necessary security arrangements for him and for our entire staff will be
effective and will assure their necessary safety."
But officials acknowledged that the return of the Israeli diplomats to
Cairo could take weeks if not longer. They said the military regime has
proven incapable of protecting Israeli interests amid the rise of the
powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to sever relations between Cairo
On Sept. 7, the Brotherhood issued its first condemnation of the
military regime since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February. The
Brotherhood expressed fear that the ruling military council would remain in
"It has failed to meet the many promises it had given," the Brotherhood