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Egyptians break into Israel Embassy in Cairo

By Aya Batrawy

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 9 2011 6:03 p.m. MDT

Egyptian activists demolish a concrete wall built around a building housing the Israeli embassy in Cairo, Egypt, to protect it against demonstrators, Friday, Sept.9, 2011. Arabic reads " liberation of Palestine begin from Egypt"

Amr Nabil, Associated Press

CAIRO — A group of about 30 protesters broke into the Israeli Embassy in Cairo Friday and dumped hundreds of documents out of the windows after a day of demonstrations outside the building in which crowds swinging sledge hammers and using their bare hands tore apart the embassy's security wall.

Israel's ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his family and other embassy staff were waiting at Cairo's airport for a military plane to evacuate them, said airport officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Hundreds of protesters converged on the embassy throughout the afternoon and into the night, tearing down large sections of the graffiti-covered security wall outside the 21-story building housing the embassy. Egyptian security forces made no attempt for hours to intervene.

Just before midnight, a group of protesters reached a room on one of the embassy's lower floors at the top of the building and began dumping Hebrew-language documents from the windows, said an Egyptian security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli official confirmed the embassy had been broken into, saying it appeared the group reached a waiting room on the lower floor. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to release the information.

No one answered the phone at the embassy late Friday.

Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February, calls have grown in Egypt for ending the historic 1979 peace treaty with Israel, a pact that has never had the support of ordinary Egyptians. Anger increased last month after Israeli forces responding to a cross-border militant attack mistakenly killed five Egyptian police officers near the border.

Several large protests have taken place outside the embassy in recent months without serious incident. Friday's demonstration, however, quickly escalated with crowds pummeling the security wall with sledge hammers and tearing away large sections of the cement and metal barrier, which was recently put up to better protect the site from protests.

For the second time in less than a month, protesters were able to get to the top of the building and pull down the Israeli flag.

Crowds outside the building photographed documents that drifted to the ground and posted some of them online.

Protesters clashed with police and set fire to a police truck outside the embassy. Crowds also tried to attack a nearby police station but were turned back by security forces firing tear gas and warning shots. State radio reported that one person died of a heart attack and that 163 people were injured.

Senior Israeli officials were holding discussions on the embassy breach.

Israeli Defense Minster Ehud Barak said in a statement that he also spoke with his American counterpart, Leon Panetta, and appealed to him to do what he could to protect the embassy.

Thousands elsewhere protested for the first time in a month against the country's military rulers.

Seven months after the popular uprising that drove Mubarak from power, Egyptians are still pressing for a list of changes, including more transparent trials of former regime figures accused of corruption and a clear timetable for parliamentary elections.

Egyptians have grown increasingly distrustful of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control of the country when Mubarak was forced out on Feb. 11 after nearly three decades in power. The council, headed by Mubarak's defense minister, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, has voiced its support for the revolution and those who called for democracy and justice.

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