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Cairo (AFP) Nov 14, 2012
President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday recalled Egypt's ambassador to Israel after a series of air strikes in Gaza killed a top Hamas militant and six other Palestinians.
Morsi decided to "recall Egypt's ambassador to Israel," his spokesman Yassir Ali said in a statement broadcast on state television.
He also ordered the foreign ministry to summon Israel's ambassador in Cairo and asked the Arab League, based in Cairo, to convene an emergency meeting of foreign ministers.
The Arab League's deputy chief Ahmed Ben Hilli said the ministers will convene in Cairo on Saturday.
Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, previously withdrew its ambassador after a Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, when president Hosni Mubarak was still in power.
Morsi, an Islamist elected in June after Mubarak's overthrow in 2011, has promised to take a harder line on Israel than his predecessor, who was accused of doing little to stop Israel's devastating assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.
Morsi "offered his sincerest condolences, in the name of the Egyptian people, to the Palestinians for their martyrs," Ali said in his terse statement.
The president's Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is closely aligned with the Hamas rulers of neighbouring Gaza, called for an economic boycott of Israel.
Its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, warned that Israel "must take into account the changes in the Arab region and especially Egypt."
Egypt "will not allow the Palestinians to be subjected to Israeli aggression, as in the past," the party statement said.
Egypt's relations with Israel have chilled considerably since Mubarak's ouster. Morsi himself has promised to respect his country's treaty with Tel Aviv but refuses to mention Israel by name in his speeches.
He has not, however, considerably loosened a blockade on Gaza that has largely been enforced by Israel since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
Egypt shares a passenger crossing with Gaza but has balked at turning it into a commercial crossing, as Hamas had hoped.
Israel remains deeply unpopular in Egypt, which fought four wars with Israel before signing the peace treaty.
Protesters in September 2011 raided a section of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, tossing out thousands of its documents from a window.
But its treaty with Israel, which became the basis for annual US aid of more than 1 billion dollars to Egypt, is seen as a cornerstone of Cairo's foreign policy that will not be changed by Morsi.
His movement, however, along with other parties in Egypt, want the treaty revised to allow their army a larger presence in the Sinai peninsula, which Israel returned to Cairo after the 1979 peace treaty.
The peninsula, rich in coastal beach resorts in the south, has become a haven for Islamist militants in the north who conduct attacks on both Egyptian security forces and neighbouring Israel.
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