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Egyptians vent 30 years of pent-up rage at Israel embassy

CAIRO, Apr 12 (Veterans Today) – For the first time since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak after thirty years in power, Egyptians last Friday staged angry demonstrations in front of Israel’s embassy in Cairo. The protest was triggered by a series of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip that left 19 Palestinians dead.

“Why do the Zionists insist on killing the besieged people of Gaza?” Ali Sayyid, a 41-year-old protester from Beni Sueif (located some 180 kilometres south of Cairo), told VT. “The Mubarak regime allowed Israel to get away with murder, but post-revolutionary Egypt will not stand silent in the face of Zionist crime.”

At 4:00pm on Friday evening, an advance guard of about 200 protesters marched roughly three kilometres from Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to the Israeli embassy. The embassy occupies the top floor of a high-rise building situated at the far end of Cairo University Bridge.

As the angry crowd crossed the bridge, Egyptian security personnel guarding the building quickly disappeared. Within minutes, the guardhouses they had occupied were overrun by protestors waving intermingling Egyptian and Palestinian flags.

Gaza, Gaza, we’ll stand by you until judgment day!” demonstrators chanted. “Wake up, Oh Arabs — Jerusalem is under attack!”

Before long, a handful of protestors had set fire to a large Israeli flag amid cheers of approval.

The embassy has stood empty since late January, when its diplomatic staff hastily departed the country as Egypt’s revolution climaxed. Nevertheless, a small blue-and-white Israeli flag can still be seen hanging from the building’s uppermost floors.

Protesters, whose numbers had reached an estimated 5000 by nightfall, vowed not to leave until the flag was removed.

“We don’t want to see this vile flag flying in our country,” Mahmoud Rizk, a protester from Mansoura (located some 220 kilometres north of Cairo), told VT. “In fact, we want Egypt to cut all ties with the Zionist entity.”

Egypt has had official relations with Israel since the signing of the Camp David peace agreement in 1979. Jordan is the only other Arab country to officially recognise the self-proclaimed Jewish state, with which it signed its own peace deal in 2004.

Friday’s protest marked the first demonstration to be held at Israel’s Cairo embassy since February 11, when Mubarak was forced to hand over executive authority to Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

“This is the first time we’ve managed to stage a protest directly in front of the Zionist embassy,” Ahmed Sherara, a 28-year-old protester from Cairo, told VT. “In Mubarak’s day, protesters would have been fired upon for simply approaching the building.”

“Before the revolution, we were afraid to speak out when the Zionists murdered our brethren in Gaza,” said Sayyid. “But now, with the end of Mubarak’s police state, here we stand without fear – right in front of the hated Zionist embassy.”

In recent years, the Egyptian public had looked on angrily — albeit powerlessly — as the Mubarak regime took an increasingly friendly position towards Israel, despite the latter’s continued abuse of the Palestinian people and uninterrupted theft of Palestinian land.

Since 2007, the regime had colluded in Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip by closing Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, effectively turning the besieged coastal enclave into an open-air prison. The regime had also adopted a hard line vis-à-vis Gaza’s Hamas-led government, which was democratically elected in 2006 on a platform of resistance against the Israeli occupation.

The Mubarak regime further infuriated popular opinion in 2008 when it began exporting Egyptian natural gas to Israel at prices less than those paid by the cash-strapped Egyptian public.

“The corrupt Mubarak regime treated Israel like an ally, while most of the Egyptian people saw it as enemy number-one,” Mohamed Samir, a 30-year-old protester from Cairo, told VT.

Last week, Egyptians were angered again by a series of Israeli artillery, tank and air attacks on the Gaza Strip that left 19 Palestinians dead — most of them civilians — and dozens injured. And on Thursday, Egyptians were further incensed by news that two Israeli missiles had landed inside Egyptian territory.

“Two Israeli explosive projectiles, most likely fired from fighter jets, struck the Egyptian side of Rafah on Thursday about 700 meters from the border,” Hatem al-Buluk, a local journalist, told VT from the city of Al-Arish (located some 40 kilometres west of Rafah). “The first exploded in a vacant area; the second, which failed to detonate, was taken away by the Egyptian army.”

Protesters at the embassy on Friday evening delivered a list of demands to an Egyptian army officer stationed nearby. These demands included the permanent closure of the embassy and expulsion of the ambassador; an immediate halt to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip; the opening of the Rafah crossing and the lifting of the Gaza blockade; and an official ban on the sale of Egyptian natural gas — at any price — to Israel.

Perhaps most contentiously, protesters also demanded that the unpopular Camp David peace agreement be put before a national referendum to be either endorsed or rejected by the Egyptian public.

After receiving the list, the army officer reportedly promised protesters that the ruling SCAF would “study” their demands.

On Sunday, roughly 1000 protesters again converged on the embassy to voice similar grievances. Although the Israeli flag continues to flutter over the building, protestors have vowed to maintain their demonstrations until all their demands are fulfilled.

“We will continue protesting in front of the embassy in order to realise our demands,” 29-year-old protest organiser Ahmed Eli told VT, “and to remind the world that Egypt — despite the passage of 30 long years under Mubarak — has never forgotten its brothers and sisters in Palestine.”

Activists are now calling for massive, countrywide demonstrations on May 15 to coincide with the 63rd anniversary of the nakba – or “catastrophe” in Arabic – when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

View the original article at Veterans Today

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