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Egyptians break into Israeli Embassy in Cairo

By Aya Batrawy

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 9 2011 6:50 p.m. MDT

An elderly man runs past flaming vehicles outside the building housing the Israeli embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. A group of about 30 protesters broke into the embassy 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. (AP Photo)

The Associated Press

CAIRO — Protesters broke into the Israeli Embassy in Cairo Friday and dumped documents out of the windows as hundreds more demonstrated outside, prompting the ambassador to rush to the airport to leave. The unrest was a further worsening of already deteriorating ties between Israel and post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt.

Egyptian police made no attempt to intervene during the day as crowds of hundreds tore down an embassy security wall with sledgehammers and their bare hands or after nightfall when about 30 protesters stormed into the Nile-side high-rise building where the embassy is located.

Just before midnight, the 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.

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.

Israeli officials refused to comment on the ambassador's departure. No one answered the phone at the embassy late Friday.

Since the fall of Mubarak — who worked closely with the Israelis — in February, ties have steadily worsened between the two countries. Anger increased last month after Israeli forces responding to a cross-border militant attack mistakenly killed five Egyptian police officers near the border. Egypt nearly withdrew its ambassador from Israel, and protesters demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. 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.

Several large protests have taken place outside the embassy in recent months without serious incident.

On Friday, Egyptians held their first significant demonstrations in a month against the country's military rulers, with thousands gathering in Cairo and other cities. Alongside those gatherings, a crowd massed outside the Israeli Embassy's building.

It quickly escalated with crowds pummeling the graffiti-covered security wall with sledgehammers and tearing away large sections of the cement and metal barrier, which was recently put up by Egyptian authorities 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.

Mustafa Sayid said he was among the group of protesters who broke into the embassy. He showed a reporter cell phone video footage he said he recorded inside.

The group got into the building through a third-floor window and climbed the stairs to the embassy. They worked for hours to break through three doors to enter the embassy, said the 28-year-old man. They encountered three Israelis and beat one of them.

Several Egyptian military policemen appeared and escorted the Israelis to safety but did not attempt to arrest any of the protesters, who then set about dumping files out the windows, he said.

"They have papers on us, they collect information on us, so it's only fair that we share information on them," he said.

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