Egypt: Eyewitness to Israeli embassy attack fears this as a break with the past

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Referring to the Egyptian rioters inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, Rev. Giovanni Esti – a Catholic priest and missionary of the Comboni order – said “The attack on the Israeli embassy is a clear act of breaking with the past.”

On September 9, mobs sacked the Israeli embassy, destroying and tossing equipment and documents into the street. Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon as well as other embassy personnel and their families were safely flown home that day, while Egyptian commandos managed to extract six Israeli guards from the embassy compound who were embattled by the violent protesters. This is the most serious incident so far in the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Israel and Egypt.

According to the Fides news service, Rev. Esti observed, “It was a proof of strength, a gesture of breaking with the past. A ‘sacred’ place was violated, which under Mubarak’s regime would never have been attacked in that way.” Rev. Esti, who lives in Cairo, was an eyewitness to the attack. “We saw the group that attacked the Israeli embassy. It is hard to think that it was a spontaneous event. It was a planned event. This attack was carried out by recruited football fans. What is most disturbing is that the embassy was not adequately defended,” said the missionary.
Moreover, said the Italian priest, “This gesture will certainly please the people’s expectations, who feel resentment towards Israel. And it is easy to make populist statements in this field to gather support for the forthcoming elections. At the same time, however, it damages the Country’s international relations and puts the international community at risk.”

“To all of this, an additional key to the reading can be added” continued the missionary. “The provisional government was formed by members of Mubarak’s military regime. While the latter is on trial, his men rule the country. But from the trial, some papers that highlight the connivance of the current power holders with past events could emerge. In addition, the mood of the population towards the army has changed. Many are declaring themselves against the army. One could therefore hypothesize underground agreements between the military sectors and Muslim Brotherhood environments, if the military power pave the way for the Muslim Brotherhood, the latter could in return guarantee them a certain impunity. But we are only dealing with hypotheses,” emphasized Rev. Esti.

“There are several signs that indicate a change in the international position of Egypt. We are talking for example of changing access modalities from Western countries. So far, to enter the country you can simply buy the visa at the airport. Instead the rule where one must go to the Egyptian embassy in the country of origin to enter Egypt is asked to be introduced. It is a sign in my opinion of a progressive breakaway from the West,” concluded the missionary.

Christians in Egypt, including Coptic Orthodox whose presence predates the advent of Islam in the wastes of Arabia, are increasingly wary of developments in the country following the hopeful spirit of the so-called Egyptian Spring that saw the downfall of dictator Hosni Mubarak. A bomb blast killed Christian worshippers on New Years Day in Cairo, which sparked riots in the Egyptian capital and Alexandria. This follows a series of attacks on age-old churches and monasteries, as well as the murder and rape of scores of Christian individuals that still challenge Egyptian authorities for an adequate response. In the embassy attack, protesters claim that Egyptian security used tear gas and excessive force in seeking to quell the protest. Some reports suggest that 187 people may have been injured in the affray.

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