Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip were "unacceptable" and would lead to instability in the region, in a televised address to the nation on Thursday. He also convened an emergency meeting of his cabinet, which included his defense minister.
"We are in contact with the people of Gaza and with Palestinians and we stand by them until we stop the aggression and we do not accept under any circumstances the continuation of this aggression on the Strip," Morsi said.
"The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region and would negatively and greatly impact the security of the region," he said.
IIn a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, Morsi said he discussed "ways to reach calm and end the aggression".
Egypt has officially requested a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss what it describes as Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, according to a statement from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Egypt's representative to the U.N. called for the meeting in formal letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to the Security Council, the ministry said. In the letter, the ambassador expressed Egypt's "serious alarm at the Israeli aggression on Gaza" and described the attack as a violation of international law.
He called for urgent international action, particularly from the council, "to confront this serious situation which threatens international peace and security."
Egypt recalled its ambassador from Israel on Wednesday after Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip killed Hamas's top military commander, Ahmed Jabari, and at least six other Palestinians, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said.
"President Mohammed Morsi has followed the Israeli brutal assault in which a number of martyrs and sons of the Palestinian people were killed," Yasser Ali said in a statement aired on television.
"On this basis he has recalled the Egyptian ambassador from Israel; has ordered the Egyptian representative at the United Nations to call for an emergency meeting at the Security Council ... and summoned the Israeli ambassador in Egypt in protest over the assault," the statement said. "On behalf of the Egyptian people the president gives his condolences to the Palestinian people over their martyrs."
The Freedom and Justice party, the Brotherhood's political party, which Morsi headed before winning the presidency, warned in a statement Wednesday that "the occupation state must realize that the changes that took place in the region, especially in Egypt, will not let the Palestinian people fall at the mercy of the Israeli aggression as was the case before."
The statement also said that diplomatic steps, such as recalling the Egyptian ambassador home from Tel Aviv, were not enough and Egypt should also force the Israeli diplomatic mission out of Cairo: "We are talking about an attack that amounts to war crimes, and it requires immediate international attention."
The party expressed condolences for Jabari's death and denounced the Israeli air strike Wednesday as a "crime that requires a quick Arab and international response to stem these massacres." It said Israel wanted to "drag the region toward instability," and called for protests Friday to denounce the military escalation.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Egyptian ambassador left Israel on Wednesday night. It did not, however, confirm any change in the Israeli mission to Cairo's status.
Egypt has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv on previous occasions, including in August 2011 when Israeli forces killed five Egyptian security personnel along the border while pursing terrorists who had crossed into Israel and killed eight civilians. Egypt also withdrew its envoy during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and heavy Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip in 2000.
Egypt's new Islamist government has said it honored the 1979 peace agreement with Israel, a ground-breaking event in Middle East history, but analysts say growing anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt, stoked by the assault on Gaza, would increase pressure from Islamists on Morsi.
Around 100 people protested near Tahrir Square in central Cairo on Wednesday against the Israeli strikes in Gaza, chanting: "From Tahrir to Palestine, it is one people, not two."
Egypt's state news agency said Hamas leadership hailed Morsi's decisions.
Meanwhile, senior officials in Jordan said on Wednesday that King Abdullah was taking quiet diplomatic measures against Israel in protest against the operations. A senior official told Israel Hayom, however, that Jordan had no intention of harming its peace agreement with Israel in any way.