VIDEO - Night drama: Friday's violent clashes at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo continued into the night, leading to a particularly dramatic decision. Israel's Ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon, some 80 diplomats, their family members and other Israeli staying in Cairo were transferred to the Egyptian capital's airport in a secret operation, under tight security.
A special Israel Air Force flight returned the Israeli representatives to the Jewish state, where they landed early Saturday.
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Security fence to surround Israeli embassy in Cairo
Another plane, carrying six security guards and embassy staff who were stranded in the embassy, landed in Israel several hours later. The evacuation of the six Israelis by an Egyptian commando force took place early Saturday with a live broadcast to the Foreign Ministry's situation room in Jerusalem.
The six reportedly maintained their composure throughout the incident.
Watch protestors throw embassy documents
After the evacuation, Egyptian officials drove the six to the Cairo airport, where they boarded an IAF plane to Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the Israelis stranded in the embassy building three times overnight, praised them and promised to do all in his power to have them rescued safely.
Israeli diplomat maintains embassy
"The mob attack on the Israeli Embassy in Egypt is a serious incident, but could have been worse had the rioters managed to get through the last door and hurt our people," Netanyahu said after the rescue.
"I'm glad we managed to prevent a disaster and would like to thank US President Obama for his help. I would also like to congratulate all the intelligence officials who helped in the rescue for their excellent work.
"The fact that the Egyptian authorities acted with determination and rescued our people should be noted and we extend them our thanks," the prime minister added. "However, Egypt must not ignore the severe injury to the fabric of peace with Israel and such a blatant violation of international norms. We will hold consultations later on."
Protestor removes Israeli flag (Photo: AP)
State officials told Reuters that Israel left a diplomat behind to maintain its Cairo embassy. The diplomat, Yaakov Dvir, the consul for state affairs and Ambassador Levanon's deputy, will remain in Egypt while Israel weighs a response to overnight demonstrations during which the Cairo office tower housing the mission was overrun, the official said.
Israel decided to evacuate the embassy after it was stormed by Egyptian protestors, who removed the Israeli flag from the building's rooftop, for the second time within one month.
The al-Arabiya network and local media said more than 1,000 Egyptians were hurt in clashes between police and demonstrators who tried to invade the embassy and a nearby police compound, while police used teargas and fired shots in the air to disperse protesters.
According to the al-Youm al-Sabah daily, three of the protestors died of their wounds. An earlier report said one of the protestors died after suffering a heart attack.
Protestors destroy security wall (Photo: Reuters)
At one point, hundreds of Egyptian troops arrived at the site in dozens of armored vehicles in an effort to quell the violence.
Arab television networks broadcast footage of protestors throwing documents they claimed to have found in the embassy storeroom out of the windows. The Foreign Ministry said in response that the documents were papers handed out to all embassy visitors.
An al-Jazeera video showed a protestor waving a piece of paper with a Ynet article taken from the embassy. "This document discusses the request to visit Azzam Azzam. This proves that he is a Jewish Mossad agent," the protestor claimed.
Earlier, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf summoned his cabinet crisis team and the Interior Ministry put police on alert and canceled police holidays, state media said on Saturday.
Obama speaks with Netanyahu
Jerusalem sources defined the attack on the embassy as "a serious incident", and the Foreign Ministry launched opened an emergency headquarters, which was visited by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The ministry is said to be in close contact with the Egyptian authorities.
The United States was also involved in efforts to calm tensions in Cairo, with President Barack Obama calling on Egypt Friday to protect Israel's embassy from demonstrators in Cairo, as he spoke by telephone to Prime Minister Netanyahu, officials said.
Violence outside embassy building (Photo: Reuters)
Obama expressed "great concern" over the incident and explained steps Washington was taking in response, including a call on Egypt "to honor its international obligations to safeguard the security of the Israeli Embassy."
"The president expressed his great concern about the situation at the Embassy, and the security of the Israelis serving there," a White House statement said. "The President and the Prime Minister agreed to stay in close touch until the situation is resolved."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later 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.
Defense Minister Ehud 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 protestors.
Egyptian protesters earlier tore down a security wall outside the embassy before one of them scaled the high-rise building and tore down its flag.
Earlier, thousands of protesters had massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand reforms and an end to military trials of civilians. After listening to the weekly Muslim prayer at which they were told it is shameful for Egyptians to "forget their revolution," about 1,000 of them broke off and marched to the Israeli embassy.
Ronene Medzini, Eyal Lehman, Roee Nahmias and news agencies contributed to this report
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