Egypt withdraws ambassador to Israel as country reacts to renewed offensive on Gaza

Egypt has withdrawn its ambassador in Tel Aviv as the country reacted to renewed Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip that killed the head of Hamas’s armed wing and at least seven others, including two young children, on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said in a statement aired by state TV that President Mohamed Morsy has decided to withdraw Ambassador Atef Salem al-Ahl following Israeli raids on Gaza that killed Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jaabari as well as other civilians. Reuters also reported that the Israeli ambassador had left Cairo with embassy staff, citing an airport source.

Israel launched air raids across the enclave that the health ministry said killed seven people, including two girls under the age of five, according to Reuters.

Ali said Morsy had also instructed Egypt’s UN representative to ask for an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss the assaults.

Morsy has also directed the Foreign Ministry to submit a protest letter to Israeli authorities that demands a halt to the aggression. He also requested the Arab League chief convene an urgent session of regional foreign ministers.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also asked for an urgent Arab League meeting to discuss the offensive, state-run news agency MENA reported, citing the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo.

Morsy offers condolences on behalf of Egypt to the Palestinian people for the victims of the raids, Ali said.

One of Israel's most wanted and the leader of Hamas armed wing Izz al-Din al-Qassam, Jaabari was killed in a missile strike targeting his car in the Gaza Strip.

The Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the killing in a statement.

The FJP described the assassination as a "crime that requires quick Arab and international action to stop these massacres against the Palestinian people besieged in the Gaza Strip."

Israel accuses Jaabari of responsibility for a large number of operations against the country, including planning the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was released last year after five years in captivity.

The party condemned the return of the policy of assassinations against leaders of the Palestinian resistance movements, saying that it "confirms that the Israeli occupation wants to drag the region into instability."

Israel, according to the statement, "should be aware that the change witnessed in the Arab region, especially in Egypt, will not allow placing the Palestinian people under the Israeli aggression as was in the past."

Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb described the assassination as "a terrorist action and an outrageous crime that violates all international agreements."

Hamas is a Palestinian extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest political organization.

An FJP party official said Tuesday its legal committee is working on a new draft law to amend the 1979 peace treaty signed with Israel and would send it to President Mohamed Morsy for review.

Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi said withdrawing the Egyptian ambassador was “a first, earnest step” towards stopping aggressions against the Palestinian people. “The Zionist ambassador should be expelled immediately, the security stipulations of the Camp David Treaty should be reviewed,” he said on twitter.

Former MP Mostafa Bakry also hailed the move. “The assassination of Jaabari is an unforgivable crime,” he posted on Twitter.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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