Egyptian political figures and political groups are calling for tough measures to be taken against Israel after five Egyptian soldiers were killed by Israeli forces allegedly pursuing militants into Sinai following an attack on an Israeli bus near Eilat.
The Egyptian government called Israeli’s response to the bus attack “disproportionate”.
It is not yet clear how diplomatic ties between the neighbouring countries will be affected by the killings, which has left Egyptians seething with anger and protesters rocking the Israeli embassy since Friday, 19 August.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian ambassador in Israel, Yasser Reda, denied that he was recalled from Tel Aviv. In a statement to Ahram Online, Reda said that that he has not heard of a decision by the Egyptian Council of Ministers calling for his return to Cairo, though he read reports in the media that he would be recalled.
Reda also said that the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Israel is doing well and that there have been no protests in front of the Egyptian embassy there, or pressure from the Israeli authorities.
In Egypt, several Egyptian political forces, including six political parties and four presidential candidates, established a joint delegation to meet with the ruling military council and hand over eight demands regarding the incident in Sinai.
The demands include recalling Ambassador Reda from Israel, expelling the Israeli ambassador in Egypt, banning Israeli naval forces from passing through the Suez Canal, raising Egyptian armed forces presence in Sinai, ensuring that those who kill Egyptians are handed over to Egyptian authorities to be tried in Egypt, reporting Israel’s violations to the UN Security Council, taking measures to punish Israel for its actions on the Egyptian border, and reconsidering relations between Egypt and Israel, including exporting Egyptian gas to Israel, until they hand over those who killed the soldiers.
The delegation announced these demands in a statement at the headquarters of the Wasat Party, underlining that the Egyptian revolution has changed relations between the two countries, and that the Mubarak regime, which was a “strategic treasure” to Israel, is gone forever.
“[This regime] has been replaced by a strong nation that doesn’t know weakness and knows how to get justice for the blood of its martyrs,” the statement read. “In the face of this crime, the Egyptians have united, across ideologies, political parties, police and army and put aside their differences for the sake of the nation and give support to their armed forces against this attack.”
The statement was signed by presidential candidates Amr Moussa, Hisham El-Bastawisy, Ayman Nour and the representative of Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, as well as the representatives of the Wafd Party, the Wasat Party, the Ghad Party, El-Hadara Party, El-Asala Party and El-Nahda Party. The statement was also signed by Samir Morcos, deputy to the governor of Cairo, George Ishaq, former secretary-general to the Kefaya Movement, and prominent media personality Hamdy Kandeel.
The Free Front for Peaceful Change and the National Association for Change have also upped the pressure by planning a mass Iftar in front of the house of the Israeli ambassador's Cairo residence under the slogan “Leave.” Yesterday, hundreds of protesters turned up in front of ambassador’s residence, demanding his departure.
The Council of Ministers, meanwhile, held a meeting yesterday evening to discuss the statement of regret given by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak about the attacks in Sinai, in which he described peace between Israel and Egypt as very important.
“Israel regrets the deaths of the Egyptian officers that occurred during the attacks along the Israeli-Egyptian border,” Barak had said on Saturday. “The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is of great importance and strategic value for the continued stability of the Middle East.”
The council said that Barak's statement may seem positive, but it is not enough, considering the magnitude of the crisis and the anger felt by the Egyptian people over the Israeli actions.
Osama Heikal, the Egyptian minister of information, read the council's statement in which they underlined that while Egypt respects the peace treaty with Israel, Tel Aviv needs to respects its duties in protecting this peace.
In the statement, the council said that the government regards the suggestion to launch a joint investigation into the attacks as a positive step to prevent any further incidents from taking place, adding that Egyptian blood is not cheap and that the government will not let this blood be shed in vain.
The Egyptian government has also demanded that a deadline is set for this investigation so that the results can be revealed as soon as possible.
The statement also said that the Egyptian government rejects statements made by some Israeli and Western officials regarding the security situation in Sinai, saying that security in Sinai is an issue that concerns Egypt only and that no one else should interfere in this matter.
The government also slammed Israeli bombing attacks on Gaza that have inflamed Egyptian and Arab public opinion even more.