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The BBC's Nick Childs in Jerusalem
"The move followed Israel's heaviest artillery attack so far on Palestinian targets on Monday"
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The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Gaza
"This conflict will be even harder to stop"
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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 15:27 GMT
Egypt acts against Israel violence
Right-wing Israelis burning a portrait of Yasser Afafat
Right-wing Israelis express their hatred for Arafat
Egypt has told its ambassador to Israel to return home immediately in response to what it calls escalating Israeli aggression against the Palestinians.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, said he regretted the decision and hoped the recall would be short lived.

But Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said the decision would not be reversed without a meaningful change in Israeli policy.

We will continue confronting this serious escalation by Israel and the step taken today is clear

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa
Mr Moussa was speaking after Israel's heaviest bombardment of the Palestinian territories since the start of the Palestinian uprising seven weeks ago.

The Israelis were responding to a bomb attack on a Jewish school bus in the Gaza Strip which killed two Israeli teachers.

I would not exaggerate the immediate consequences of such a step, but of course we regret it

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak
It is the first time Cairo has recalled its ambassador since Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and a BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says there is shock and consternation in the Israeli political establishment.

Egypt has been the leading Arab nation attempting to negotiate an end to the violence between the two sides, hosting an emergency summit last month at the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

'Serious message'

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Mubarak: Mediating role in question
In Israel's first reaction to the recall, Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami said Egypt's decision was "grave" and could harm Egypt's ability to play a role in the Middle East peace process.

But Mr Barak later played down its importance.

"I would not exaggerate the immediate consequences of such a step, but of course we regret it," he said.

The ambassador, Mohammed Bassiouni, is not expected to return to Tel Aviv soon.

Attack and counterattack
12 October
Ramallah and Gaza bombed after lynching of soldiers
9 November
Rockets kill Fatah militia commander and two bystanders after series of ambushes on troops
15 November
Rocket attacks on Hebron, Jericho and Beit Jala after more ambushes
20 November
Dozens of rockets hit Gaza after roadside bomb kills 2 settlers
In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Another Arab state, Saudi Arabia, has appealed for world pressure to force Israel to comply with United Nations resolutions calling for its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Panic in the streets

Witnesses said Israeli missiles struck Gaza City at a rate of one per minute, wounding at least 40 people. Power supplies were knocked out and there was panic in the streets.

Shrapnel damage to bus
Shrapnel tore through the packed bus
The attacks began several hours after the bombing of a school bus near the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, in which two Jewish teachers were killed and several Israeli children were injured.

Israeli officials said they were in no doubt that the Fatah movement of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was behind the attack, something the Palestinian leadership denies.

Three militant Islamic groups have said they carried out the bombing.

In further violence overnight, Israeli troops are reported to have shot and killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

And in clashes on Tuesday, at least four Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops.

An Israeli was also critically wounded in a shooting attack blamed on Palestinian gunmen near the site of Monday's bus bomb attack.

A senior Palestinian official says that police officers have now been given orders to use their guns to protect demonstrators if they come under Israeli fire.

UN observer efforts

The violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories has claimed more than 240 lives, most of them Palestinians.

Mourners at the funeral of Israeli teacher Miriam Amitai
Israel holds the Palestinian Authority responsible
The Palestinians have been trying unsuccessfully to persuade the UN to deploy observers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has held meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian representatives at the UN to explore what kind of international presence in the region might prove acceptable to both sides.

Israel rejects any deployment of an observer mission except in the context of an overall peace settlement. But the Palestinians say observers are essential to protect them.

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Israeli bus bombing
19 Nov 00 | Middle East
Israeli diplomat shot in Jordan
17 Nov 00 | Middle East
Arafat urges halt to Palestinian fire
15 Nov 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Burying the peace?
20 Nov 00 | Middle East
History of bomb blasts
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