Leon Panetta - Reuters - 9.9.2011
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaking during a ceremony commemorating the 9/11 in Arlington, Virginia September 9, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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The United States told Egypt's military rulers during an attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo that they must act quickly in order to prevent Israeli personnel from being attacked by Egyptian protesters, Haaretz learned on Saturday.

According to senior U.S. source that were involved in the attempt to resolve the Cairo incident, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called Supreme Military Council head Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, conveying what the source called a forceful message concerning the need for speed in Egypt's ending of the embassy attack.

"There's no time to waste," Panetta reportedly told Tantawi in the 1 A.M. call, warning of a tragic outcome that "would have very severe consequences."

The U.S. source also said that Tantawi failed to answer incoming calls from U.S. officials throughout the evening, finally answering after more than two hours of attempts.

These reports came after earlier Saturday, a senior Israeli source indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak attempted repeatedly to reach the head of Egypt's Supreme Military Council, to no avail.

According to the Israeli source, the "Egyptians said every time that they were not able to track him down in order to connect the call." After failing to locate Tantawi himself, Netanyahu called head of Egyptian intelligence, Gen. Murad Muwafi.

Barak, in turn, called U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, asking him to discuss the issue with Tantawi, which Panetta was able to do shortly after.

Also on Saturday, Egypt raised its national alertness level following the severe nighttime incident late Friday, as thousands of Egyptian protesters attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, resulting in the evacuation of dozens of Israeli diplomats.

Egyptian commandos released six besieged security guards from the Israeli Embassy, while an Israeli Air Force plane evacuated over 80 diplomats, including family members from Cairo, after a mass group of Egyptian protesters broke into the embassy.


Netanyahu thanked on Saturday both the United States and Egypt for their aid in the wake of the embassy attack, adding that Israel's peace treaty with Egypt was an interest shared by both countries and "an anchor" in Israel's regional policy.

Netanyahu also referred to what he saw as a link between events such as the attack on the Israeli embassy and the stalled Middle East peace process.