Night of anti-Israeli protest draws hundreds rather than the promised hundreds of thousands

Ahram Online, Saturday 27 Aug 2011

Anti-Israeli demonstrations continue into Friday night in front of the Israel Embassy in Cairo, but the Facebook call for a million man march was met with little support

(photo by: Mai Shaheen)

Tensions are beginning to flare up, according to users of the social networking site Twitter, after the reported arrest of a protester by the military police.

Protesters began to return to the Israeli Embassy in Dokki, Cairo after Iftar. By about 8pm, a couple of hundred had stood on the bridge and in front of the neighbouring buildings. The blue lines and star of the Israeli flag were being painted on a white banner several metres in length. Demands were written as well as demonstrators stood on the flag and paced back an forth, showing there indignation and outrage.

Earlier, hundreds had gathered in Tahrir Square to march to the embassy in defiance and to mark Al-Quds (or Jerusalem) Day – an annual day of protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.A Facebook call urged Egyptians to demonstrate en mass at the Israeli embassy in Cairo to demand the expulsion of the ambassador. The demonstrators marched around Tahrir Square carrying Egyptian flags and chanting “The People want the Israeli ambassador expelled.”

In front of the embassy a dozen or so protesters performed the Ishaa prayer (dusk) as military police looked on from their armoured vehicles. After the prayer, chanting resumed as people waved black flags proclaiming the oneness of God. Signs bore the name of several groups. Some were clearly Nasserists, others pro-Palestinian and still others of a religious nature. One group was called “the Movement of the Oneness of God.”

The metres long Israeli flag, by now completed, was spread across the street, blocking both traffic directions and then set alight. Some protesters called for the “doors of jihad to be opened” and weapons to be given to the volunteers who would go and free Palestine from Zionist bondage. Protesters have not forgotten the military council, however, and many directed their anger at de-facto leader Field Marshall Hussein Mohammed Tantawi and General Sami Anan, the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces. “We are not cowards,” they shouted, demanding that the council take a position and stick to it.

The main cries among the press of people, however, was centred around two basic demands. The first was the for removal of the embassy and the expulsion of the ambassador. The second demand called for an immediate halt to the sale of natural gas to Israel.

Hundreds of demonstrators started a sit-in in front of the Israeli embassy on 19 August, following the killing of two Egyptian police officers and three soldiers by Israel on Egypt’s borders. Thousands of Egyptians have since taken to the streets in anger, demanding that the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. An Egyptian young man, dubbed “Flagman”, thrilled protesters across the world after he climbed 13 floors to bring down the Israeli flag and replace it with the Egyptian one.

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