If Egyptian authorities continue to drag their feet on their obligations to protect the embassy according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Friday’s attack could be but a dress rehearsal, testing the response for a fuller re-enactment of the attack on and taking of hostages from the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the Iranian revolution.
But the latest crop of thugs has also been hostile enough to Egypt’s military government to make it uncomfortable: The Los Angeles Times reports that protesters at the Interior Ministry threw a firebomb and spray-painted “Down with the Field Marshal” on the building.
Above all, the willful dereliction of duty by police in support of the mob threatens the Tantawi government’s ability to retain control. “Egypt declares state of alert in wake of attack on Israeli Embassy,” by Mohamed Fadel Fahmy for CNN, September 10:
Giza, Egypt (CNN) — Egypt declared a state of alert as the country’s Cabinet prepared to meet in emergency session Saturday to discuss an attack on the Israeli Embassy, a government spokesman said.
Mohamed Hegazy, the spokesman for the prime minister, announced the alert and the canceling of police holidays after Egyptian protesters tore down a wall surrounding the building that houses the Israeli Embassy and entered its offices.
Once inside, the protesters threw papers bearing Hebrew from the windows and into the streets. The offices were empty because Friday is a weekend day in Egypt.
Police fired tear gas into the crowd and gunshots into the air outside the building, which is across the Nile River from Cairo. A police car in front of a nearby police headquarters was set afire.
Earlier, as demonstrators destroyed the wall that had protected the high-rise building, police and military forces took no action.
But 450 people were injured in clashes as protesters hurled bottles at police in back streets, the minister of health told MENA, Egypt’s official news agency.
One man died of a heart attack after the protests, said Army Lieutenant Colonel Amr Imam.
Protesters cheered the demolition and chanted for the ouster of Israel’s ambassador. The demonstrators were among thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets Friday.
Many protesters converged on Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand reforms in a turnout they had dubbed “correcting the path of the revolution.” Egyptian state TV reported that hundreds of people attempted to raid the Interior Ministry and crowds of demonstrators gathered in front of the state TV building.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said about 3,000 protesters had torn apart the wall circling the embassy building.
An Egyptian commander at the embassy told CNN that security personnel had been ordered to avoid confrontations with protesters.
The practice of “steam control” went out of control.
Police had been guarding the entrance to the building, which houses the embassy on the 12th floor and private dwellings on other floors.
The commander said the wall had been erected recently to protect the residents, not the Israeli Embassy….
Vienna Convention, Article 27, 1a.: “the receiving State shall, even in case of armed conflict, respect and protect the consular premises, together with the property of the consular post and the consular archives.”
Article 31, 1: “Consular premises shall be inviolable to the extent provided in this article.” [Mobs of thugs don’t come up as an exception.]
Article 33: “The consular archives and documents shall be inviolable at all times and wherever they may be.”
Article 40: “The receiving State shall treat consular officers with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on their person, freedom or dignity.”