Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to reach the head of the ruling Supreme Military Council Mohammed Tantawi over the phone overnight, but the Egyptians said they were "unable to locate him".
More on the drama in Cairo:
- Israeli envoy leaves Egypt
- PM: Israel committed to peace with Egypt
- Egypt to try Israel embassy rioters
- Cairo protestor: We hit embassy worker
It appears that only the swift intervention of US President Barack Obama prevented a catastrophe from unfolding. "I would say it was a decisive moment – fateful, I would even say," Netanyahu said on Saturday evening.
"He said, 'I will do all that I can,' and he did; he applied all of the means and influence of the United States of America, which are certainly substantial. And I think we owe him special thanks."
On Saturday evening, a senior Israeli official said, "Such things are not supposed to take place in the circumstances that had evolved."
Military sources, meanwhile, revealed that the stranded Israeli security guards had been evacuated from the embassy while wearing the traditional Arab headdress keffiyeh and Muslim garments knows as Jalabiyas.
After the evacuation, Egyptian officials drove the six to the Cairo airport, where they boarded an IAF plane to Israel.
The defense establishment, including IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, monitored the situation closely while the operations and intelligence branches also prepared to take action in light of the developments in Egypt.
Air force chief Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan managed the aerial operations from the underground army headquarters in Tel Aviv. Two air force jets, "Re'em" and "Tzofit" took off for Egypt at 4:30 am and returned the embassy staff to Israel.
During the crisis, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also called Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to urge Egypt to meet its Vienna Convention obligations to protect diplomatic property, a senior State Department official said.
Barak spoke to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and with Dennis Ross, President Obama's emissary to the Middle East. Barak, who discussed the situation in Cairo with Netanyahu and heads of the defense establishment, asked the American officials to help defend the Israeli Embassy against the protesters.
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