Egypt recalls Israel ambassador after Gaza raid

Posted at 11/15/12 7:26 AM

CAIRO - President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday recalled Egypt's ambassador to Israel after a series of air strikes in Gaza killed a top Hamas militant and at least six other Palestinians, his spokesman said.

Morsi decided to "recall Egypt's ambassador to Israel," Yassir Ali said in a message broadcast on state television.

He also ordered the foreign ministry to summon Israel's ambassador in Cairo and asked the Arab League, based in the Egyptian capital, to convene an emergency meeting of foreign ministers.

The Arab League's deputy chief Ahmed Ben Hilli said the ministers would meet in Cairo on Saturday.

Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, previously withdrew its ambassador after a Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, when president Hosni Mubarak was still in power.

Morsi, an Islamist elected in June after Mubarak's overthrow in 2011, has promised to take a harder line on Israel than his predecessor, who was accused of doing little to stop the Jewish state's devastating assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

Morsi "offered his sincerest condolences, in the name of the Egyptian people, to the Palestinians for their martyrs," Ali said.

The foreign ministry in a statement said it had summoned the Israeli envoy to Cairo to express its "strongly worded objection against the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza," demanding an immediate end.

The president's Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is closely aligned with the Hamas rulers of neighbouring Gaza, called for an economic boycott of Israel.

Its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, warned that Israel "must take into account the changes in the Arab region and especially Egypt."

Egypt "will not allow the Palestinians to be subjected to Israeli aggression, as in the past," the party statement said.

Egypt's relations with Israel have cooled considerably since Mubarak's ouster. Morsi has promised to respect the peace treaty but refuses to mention Israel by name in his speeches.

But he has not significantly loosened a blockade on Gaza that Israel put into force in 2007 when Hamas seized the territory.

Egypt shares a passenger crossing with Gaza but has balked at turning it into a commercial one, as Hamas had hoped.

Israel remains deeply unpopular in Egypt. The countries fought four wars signing the 1979 peace treaty.

Protesters in September 2011 raided a section of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, throwing thousands of documents out of a window.

The treaty with Israel, which became the basis for annual US aid of more than $1 billion to Egypt, is seen as a cornerstone of Cairo's foreign policy which will not be changed by Morsi.

His movement, however, along with other parties in Egypt, want the treaty revised to allow the army a greater presence in the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel returned to Cairo after the treaty.

The peninsula, rich in beach resorts in the south, has become a haven for Islamist militants in the north who have carried out regular attacks on both Egyptian security forces and neighbouring Israel.

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse