Egypt recalls envoy in response to Israeli war of aggression

Egypt's action was the strongest protest to date against Israel's
handling of a Palestinian uprising

November 21, 2000, 11:27 AM

CAIRO (Agencies) - Egypt recalled its ambassador from  Israel  on
Tuesday,  citing  what  it  called  Israeli  aggression   against
Palestinians in nearly two months of deadly clashes.

Egypt's action was its strongest protest to date against Israel's
handling  of  a  Palestinian  revolt  in  which  at   least   214
Palestinians have been killed.

"President (Hosni) Mubarak issued instructions for the recall  of
Ambassador (Mohammed) Bassiouni to Cairo immediately  because  of
Israel's escalating aggression against Palestinians and excessive
use of force against the Palestinian people," the official Middle
East News Agency (MENA) said.

The  move  followed  overnight   Israeli   missile   strikes   on
Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip that were launched in after
a bomb blast that killed two Israeli settlers.

A senior Palestinian official hailed Egypt's decision.

"We appreciate Egypt's move. This is a critical  message  to  the
Arab nations, to the  United  States  and  to  the  international
community that Israel has to pay the price  of  its  aggression,"
Palestinian cabinet minister Hassan Asfour told Reuters.

"We hope this will be followed by  real  steps  against  Israel's
aggressor government and we are waiting for  more  steps  against
Israel and its ally the United States," said Asfour, who has been
a negotiator in now-frozen peace talks with Israel.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government.

Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with  Israel
in 1979, last recalled its ambassador in protest  at  the  Jewish
state's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. On that  occasion,  the  envoy,
Saad Murtada, stayed in  Cairo  for  eight  months.  MENA  quoted
Foreign Minister Amr Moussa as saying he would consult  Bassiouni
on the "deteriorating situation" in Palestinian-ruled  areas.  It
said Bassiouni would remain in Cairo for some time  and  gave  no
date for his return to Tel Aviv.

Israel says recall envoy "serious"

Israel said on Tuesday Egypt's decision to recall its  ambassador
was a "very serious" move that would  limit  Cairo's  ability  to
play a role in Middle East peacemaking.

It said it had no immediate plans to recall its  ambassador  from
Egypt in response.

"It is a very serious issue,"  Foreign  Minister  Shlomo  Ben-Ami
told Israel Radio after Egypt decided to  recall  its  ambassador
from Israel, citing what it  called  Israeli  aggression  against
Palestinians in nearly two months of clashes.

Ben-Ami said Egypt would still have a role to play in peacemaking
but added: "I think  that  recalling  the  ambassador  will  hurt
Egypt's ability to continue to fill the very  important  role  it
has in the process here."

Asked about Israel's ambassador in Cairo, he said:  "We  are  not
thinking of calling the ambassador for consultations."

Palestinians jubilant over Egypt's decision

Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip  on  Tuesday  cheered
Egypt and its  President  Hosni  Mubarak  after  he  ordered  his
ambassador to Israel back to Cairo.

Thousands of  Palestinians  had  been  attending  a  funeral  for
Ibrahim Ahmed Othman, 16, killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers
on Monday, when the news of the Egyptian diplomatic move  reached
Gaza.

"Oh Mubarak, oh my love, go strike Tel Aviv!" jubilant supporters
shouted in Rafah along the Egyptian border.

"We and Egypt are on the path  of  fire!"  chanted  others,  many
firing guns in air.

Egyptian flags were quickly  brought  to  the  scene  and  waved,
witnesses said.

Isolating Israel

Jordan,  which  signed  a  peace  treaty  with  Israel  in  1994,
announced in early October that it was delaying sending its newly
appointed ambassador, Abdulilah Al-Kurdi, to Tel Aviv in  protest
at Israeli actions against Palestinians.

Egypt and Jordan resisted pressure to cut their ties with  Israel
as radicals demanded at an Arab summit in Cairo last month and at
this month's Islamic summit in Qatar.

Resolutions at those meetings left it  to  individual  states  to
decide whether to downgrade their relations with Israel.

Mohamed Al-Sayed Said, deputy director of Cairo's Al Ahram Centre
for Political and Strategic Studies, welcomed the recall  of  the
ambassador, which he said was the right response to Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak`s handling of the crisis.

"The Israelis have gone mad," he told  Reuters.  "Obviously  they
are determined to destroy the Palestinian people...Public opinion
is really furious about the brutality of the  Barak  government's
policy towards the Palestinians."

arabia.com staff, AFP and Reuters contributed to this story

(c) 2000 Arabia Online Ltd