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Video: Embassy Invasion almost Ended in ‘Catastrophe’

Israeli embassy guards were told to shoot at protesters if they barged into their room. Egyptian commandos rescued them at the last minute.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/11/2011, 1:40 PM

Israeli embassy security guards on Friday were told to shoot at protesters if they barged into the room in which the guards were barricaded.

Egyptian commandos rescued them at the last minute, after intervention by President Barack Obama. 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that a plan for the six guards to escape through a window and on to the roof of the embassy building was scotched after it became clear that 50 angry protestors, with "blood in their eyes", already had reached the spot.

The embassy security guard staff barricaded themselves to prepare for the protesters to try to barge through the metal door, but they knew that this defense was not enough to save their lives. Embassy staff already had evacuated the building days earlier.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in addition to the Prime Minister, was in constant communication with the guards, and security cameras provided live coverage of the drama. He told the guards that if the rioters broke in, they were to shoot at them.

Frantic calls to the Egyptian provisional military regime convinced them to bring in more security forces to control the crowd, but it did not seem to be sufficient. Live videos now show that Egyptian police and soldiers stood by silently as protesters broke down the security wall in front of the embassy.

Intervention by President Obama saved the episode from turning into what Israeli officials said would have been a “strategic catastrophe” that would have caused the deaths of the guards and /or dozens of protesters. The guards shot in the air as protesters banged on the door to their room.

Egyptian commandos eventually rescued the guards who disguised themselves in keffiyas, Arab head gear, and in Muslim clothes.

Egyptian authorities are reeling from the episode, which not only threatened the Israelis but also focused on Egyptian officials. The mob also set fire to the Giza security department.

The Egyptian Gazette editorialized on Sunday that the protesters' anger was justified because of “the Egyptian Government's meek reaction to Israel’s killing of Egyptian security men on the country's borders” and the new “provocative” wall built to protect the Israeli embassy in Giza.

However, it added that the arson of Egyptian security offices and the invasion of the Israeli embassy, along with clashes with protesters, “are a clear sign that frivolous forces, keen to abort the revolution, play with the minds of protesters and push them to set the country on fire. Egypt seems at this moment to be manipulated by ghosts on the one hand and run by scarecrows on the other.”

The Egyptian regime has blamed "outsiders" for the violence as it tries to repair its damaged international image and witnesses the demise of tourist revenue. Even Russia condemned the invasion of the embassy.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel and Egypt are looking for a new location for the embassy, where personnel can be adequately protected. He added that radical Islam threatened not only Israel but also the entire Middle East by its use of “violence without limits.”