Israel has pulled its embassy staff out of Egypt as the outpouring of public protest against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government shows no sign of remission.
Helicopters evacuated the embassy staff to an Egyptian airbase on Friday, where they were flown back to Tel Aviv. The evacuation came after a group of Egyptian demonstrators passed by the embassy building, according to the daily al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.
Reports also said the Israeli ambassador, himself, has fled Egypt after the discovery by Egyptian security of a Mossad spy network in the capital Cairo.
On Thursday, an Israeli minister, whose name was withheld, said Egyptian government forces will have to exercise force to rein in public protests as the country teeters on the brink of a Tunisia-style revolution.
Egypt, which is widely regarded as the first Arab nation to seal a peace agreement with Israel three decades ago, remains one of Tel Aviv’s most important allies.
Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters on Thursday that Tel Aviv is closely monitoring the still-unfolding crisis in Egypt, and does not see a threat in its ties with the African state.
The two sides have cooperated in imposing restrictions on Palestinians living in the impoverished occupied territories.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have flocked the streets of Cairo and other parts of Egypt since Tuesday as part of the biggest anti-government protests in years, demanding the ouster of Mubarak after three daces in power.
Despite a night-time curfew in major cities across Egypt, protesters spilled out into the streets of several cities and were seen in significant numbers even in the early hours of Saturday morning.
On Friday, Mubarak sacked his cabinet and called for national dialogue in an attempt to staunch the flow of public outcry over poverty, high unemployment rates and rampant corruption.
Medical sources say at least 27 people have so far been killed and over a thousand injured in clashes in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.