|Hundreds of Egyptian protestors gather at the Israeli embassy trying to pull down its security wall in Cairo, capital of Egypt, on Sept. 9, 2011. Some Egyptian protestors broke into a building which houses the Israeli embassy in Cairo late Friday night. The Egyptian Interior Ministry put security forces on alert early Saturday after protesters raided the Israeli embassy here. (Xinhua/Ayman Mossa)
JERUSALEM, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The attack on the Israeli embassy in Egypt has struck a blow to the relations between the two countries, a senior Israeli official said on Saturday.
"We are thankful that our personnel were ultimately rescued, but we cannot ignore the damage done to bilateral ties and the fabric of peace," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua.
"What we've witnessed is without doubt a grave violation of international norms of diplomacy," he said.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on Friday to demand more reforms. Several thousands of them gathered in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo to protest against the killing of five Egyptian soldiers by Israeli forces at the border area on Aug. 18. A protestor took down the Israeli national flag on the top of the building after other demonstrators destroyed a section of a concrete wall that protects the building.
The official said Israel wished to extend its gratitude to the United States for intervening in the incident, which forced the emergency evacuation of some 80 diplomatic staff and their families, including Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon, who boarded a military plane to Israel shortly before the early morning of Saturday.
"The Americans were instrumental in getting our people out safely," the official said.
A second military plane carrying six Israelis, reportedly the embassy's security guards, landed in Israel early Saturday morning as well. The six stayed behind to oversee the evacuation operation of the diplomatic staff and their family members.
The arrival of the six in Israel was preceded by drama overnight Friday. They had barricaded themselves in a safe room protected by a heavy steel door inside the embassy building after dozens of Egyptian protesters stormed the compound and threw out hundreds of embassy documents from its windows.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken with the six men over phone from a special situation room set up at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, while they were besieged by an infuriated mob, reassuring them that all efforts were being made to ensure their rescue, Army Radio reported.
An Egyptian commando force aboard armed personnel carriers was dispatched to the embassy following personal appeals by Netanyahu and U.S. administration officials to Cairo's interim military council.
The Israelis' heads were reportedly covered to conceal their identities, and they were rushed to Cairo airport, where an Israel Air Force plane had been waiting.
Israeli officials confirmed that one diplomat, identified as the consul for state affairs and deputy ambassador, remained in Cairo to maintain contact with Egypt's authorities, and is currently in a safe place.
Reports said Israel is closely monitoring the situation in Cairo while weighing its response to the incident.