Egypt and Israel Reach a Breaking Point

Tensions have reached the worst point since Camp David three decades ago

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Violence and tensions between Egypt and Israel have reached "the worst point since the Camp David peace accords three decades ago," according to the New York Times.  On Saturday, Egypt announced it would pull its ambassador from Tel Aviv. In Cairo, thousands of protesters demonstrated -- for a second night -- outside the Israeli Embassy, demanding the expulsion of the ambassador.  Over Twitter, reports were that one protester climbed the building and took down the Israeli flag, while the crowd cheered. The violence has been called "the deadliest since Israel went to war against Gaza militants 2 1/2 years ago " by the Associated Press. Casualties are mounting on both sides, and diplomats are scrambling to keep things from escalating further.

According to Al-Jazeera:

The Arab League called on the "international community to pressure the Israeli occupation authorities to put an immediate end to this assault" against Gaza, after holding emergency talks in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, on Sunday.

"[The Arab League] calls on the [United Nations] Security Council to assume its responsibilities and take quick steps to halt this brutal assault," the League said in a statement.

But the AP, reporting from Jerusalem, describes the situation as an attack from Gaza Militants, with Israel retaliating: "Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip bombarded southern Israel with rockets and mortars Sunday and Israel hit back with an airstrike." The tipping point of the violence also remains unclear: according to the Times, "a series of attacks there killed eight Israelis on Thursday; the Israeli government then retaliated against Gaza-based militants, and the three Egyptians died in the crossfire." According to Al-Jazeera, the escalation began because "Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza have killed at least 15 people, among them gunmen and five civilians including three children, since gunmen killed eight people near the Red Sea resort of Eilat on Thursday. Israel blamed that attack on Palestinian fighters who had entered southern Israel from Gaza via Egypt."

What is clear, however, is that diplomats are struggling to find a way out. An Israel official has said that the current airstrikes are "not its final word" and it "will not hesitate" to widen its military operation if necessary. It has also rounded up 50 Hamas activists in the West Bank in an overnight raid, according to Palestinian security officials. Meanwhile, Egypt's "pent-up anger at Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians," according to the Times, has been unleashed since Mubarak's ouster, as Mubarak's "dependably loyal" relationship with Israel "the cornerstone of Middle Eastern politics."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.