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Security heightened but Cairo calm ahead of planned protests against Red Sea islands deal

Ahram Online , Monday 25 Apr 2016
Security forces stationed outside the Press Syndicate in Cairo's Downtown on the eve of Monday's planned protests (Photo: Aswat Masryia)
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Security has been tightened in central Cairo ahead of planned protests on Monday afternoon against the recent Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea islands agreement, but life in the capital went as normal in the morning hours of Sinai Liberation Day.

Dozens of armed security personnel and police vehicles have been stationed around major streets and squares in central Cairo.

Protesters are set to demonstrate at three separate locations in the capital: the Journalists Syndicate and the Doctors Syndicate in downtown Cairo, as well as at Behouth metro station in Giza, all under the slogan “Egypt is not for sale.”

Security forces closed-off roads leading to the Journalists Syndicate, the site of a large protest over the same issue ten days ago, with metal barriers, according to Ahram Arabic news website.

Egypt's metro spokesman Ahmed Abdel Hady said Sadat (Tahrir) station, the central metro station in Cairo, would be closed for the day.

Authorities have repeatedly shut the station down over the past few years to thwart attempts by protesters to use the fast and cheap underground transport system to mobilise rallies.

Egypt's interior ministry has warned ahead of Monday's protests that it would show no tolerance of attempts to “undermine the country's security,” urging people not to heed "calls inciting chaos."

Streets around the capital were significantly calm on Monday, a national holiday that marks Sinai Liberation Day.

The Egyptian army is celebrating the occasion with air and water sows as well as concerts for the public in Cairo and other governorates.

On 15 April, several thousand protesters staged rallies against the recent government decision to acknowledge Saudi Arabia's soveignty over two of  the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, which lie off the coast of Sharm El-Sheikh in South Sinai, 

Critics of the Egypt-Saudi agreement chose Sinai Liberation Day for their planned protests in order to highlight their cause.

The agreement has yet to be approved by the Egyptian parliament.

In Cairo's neighbouring Giza governorate, a heavy security presence was visible around key squares and major thoroughfares.

The army said on Sunday its forces would be deployed around “vital targets and major institutions" in several governorates, adding that security patrols and military police forces would also be stationed in major areas nationwide.

The protests against the decision on 15 April are believed to be the largest demonstrations by non-Islamist political forces since President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi took office in 2014. Dozens of people were arrested on the day, many of whom were released later.

Egyptian and Saudi officials say the islands belong to the Gulf kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh had asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them. 

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