(Reuters) – Security vehicles lined up near the Israeli embassy in Egypt on Sunday after violence there forced Israel to evacuate its ambassador and both sides said they wanted a return to normal diplomatic activities.
Egypt’s army rulers, who took over when Hosni Mubarak was ousted, have struggled to quell public fury against Israel since five Egyptian border guards were killed last month when Israel repelled cross-border raiders.
Protesters marched on the embassy in an apartment block on the Nile on Friday, the second major flare-up since the shooting. They stormed the building and clashed with police through the night. Charred police vehicles still lay nearby.
The United States criticised the violence and called on Egypt to protect the mission. Washington has given billions of dollars in military and other aid since 1979 when Egypt became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
“The security in front of the embassy has been enhanced,” cabinet spokesman Mohamed Higazy told Reuters. “Returning back to normalcy is the objective for both sides.”
Israel said it was working with Egypt to send Ambassador Yitzhak Levanon back to Cairo soon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in statement said he wanted to ensure necessary security steps were in place for the envoy’s return.
About 16 trucks full of police and security, three buses of military police, two armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles were parked near the embassy on Sunday.
There was no protest on Sunday and traffic passed smoothly through a road junction that a day before had been littered with broken concrete and debris from the clashes.
Police had shot in the air and fired teargas to disperse protesters who also tore down a concrete barrier wall that Egypt’s authorities erected to protect the embassy building.
Egypt said it would try those behind the violence swiftly in emergency state security courts. At least 19 people have been detained in connection with the incident, security sources said. Three people were killed and more than 1,000 injured.
Many Egyptians sympathise with the sentiments of those demonstrating against Israel, but activists, politicians and ordinary citizens also criticised the violence.
“I don’t want him (the ambassador) to come back because Israel doesn’t respect anyone, but if they are in our country, then we should be able to protect them,” said Mohamed Kamhawy, 28, an engineer working two blocks from the embassy site.
Ahmed Amr, 23, another engineer, said: “Tearing down the wall was right. They shouldn’t have built it in the first place. But invading the embassy was wrong.”
Some Egyptians are frustrated that Egypt did not take sterner measures against Israel after the border shooting. At the time, Egypt said it would withdraw its ambassador but did not carry through with the threat.
Israel has stopped short of apologising, saying it is still investigating the Egyptian deaths, which occurred during an operation against gunmen who had killed eight Israelis.
Israel is finding itself increasingly at odds with formerly sympathetic states in the region. It is embroiled in a feud with Turkey, once the closest of its few Muslim allies, over an Israeli raid last year that killed nine Turks on a flotilla bound for Gaza.
Egypt’s ties with Israel, though never warm, were a pillar of Mubarak’s foreign policy and buttressed his claim to be a regional mediator. Under Mubarak, who was ousted on Feb. 11, displays of hostility to Israel were crushed by force.