Ambassador in Cairo Yaakov Amitai
was called back to Israel prior to the launching of Operation Cloud Pillar
in Gaza due to concerns for his safety should mass protests break out in Cairo.
The majority of the Israeli embassy staff were scheduled to return to Israel on Wednesday – the day Muslims mark the Islamic new year. The embassy will not be active throughout the weekend.
Their return was moved up by one day in light of the developments on the Gaza border. Amitai returned to Israel on Wednesday at noon. The Foreign Ministry ordered a quiet evacuation of the embassy's staff.
Earlier on Wednesday, Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Atef Salem phoned Israel's Foreign Ministry and informed officials he had been asked to return
to Egypt for consultations.
State officials estimated the step was a sign of a temporary crisis that does not threaten the peace treaty.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, they said, is not interested in cutting ties with Jerusalem, but rather express his outrage. Israeli officials feared that Jordan might have to follow in Egypt's footsteps and also recall its ambassador from Israel.
Also Wednesday, Egyptian TV reported that Morsi had summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest the IDF's strikes in Gaza.
"President Morsi has followed the Israeli brutal assault in which a number of martyrs and sons of the Palestinian people were killed," presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said in a statement on television and on his Facebook website.
"On this basis he has recalled the Egyptian ambassador from Israel; has ordered the Egyptian representative at the United Nations to call for an emergency meeting at the Security Council ... and summoned the Israeli ambassador in Egypt in protest over the assault," the statement added.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr condemned Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza remarking that “the Israeli escalation comes at a critical point in the Middle East which threatens to harshly exacerbate matters.”
Foreign Minister Amr had demanded that Israel immediately stop its strikes in Gaza “and avoid any act that might escalate matters further.” He also warned Israel of the negative consequences of the escalation on peace and security in the region.
Itamar Eichner is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent