Egypt said early Saturday it will withdraw its ambassador from Israel to protest the deaths of five Egyptian security forces in what it called a breach of a peace treaty, sharply escalating tensions between the two countries after a cross-border ambush that killed eight Israelis.
The Egyptian troops were killed as Israeli soldiers pursued suspected militants from the Gaza Strip who crossed the border from the Sinai Peninsula into southern Israel, killing eight Israelis on Thursday. It was the deadliest attack on Israelis in three years.
There were conflicting statements about how the Egyptians were killed, but an Egyptian Cabinet statement said it held Israel “politically and legally responsible for this incident,” which it deemed a breach of the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries. It demanded an immediate investigation.
“The Egyptian ambassador to Israel will be withdrawn until we are notified about the results of an investigation by the Israeli authorities, and receive an apology from its leadership over the sad and hasty remarks about Egypt,” the Cabinet statement said.
The decision came after Egypt’s official news agency blamed the Israelis for shooting and killing the five while chasing militants who killed eight Israelis in Thursday’s ambush across the border in southern Israel.
The Cabinet statement did not repeat that claim but accused Israel of trying to “shirk responsibility for the recklessness of Israeli security forces in protecting the borders.”
Israeli officials did not immediately comment on the decision.
Retaliatory violence between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas also escalated Friday in the aftermath of Thursday's attack. Israeli airstrikes killed at least 12 Palestinians, most of them militants, in the Gaza Strip, and six Israelis were wounded when Palestinians fired rockets into southern Israel.