Egyptians rallying for reforms attack Israel embassy

Egyptian protesters knock down a concrete wall built in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo. [Reuters]

Egyptian protesters knock down a concrete wall built in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo. [Reuters]

Last Updated: Sat, 10 Sep 2011 11:18:00 +1000

Egyptian protesters branched off from a pro-reform rally on Friday and smashed through a wall outside Israel's embassy in Cairo before one of them scaled the high-rise building and tore down its flag.

Thousands of protesters had massed in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of an uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February, to demand reforms and an end to military trials of civilians.

After listening to the weekly Muslim prayer at which they were told it is shameful for Egyptians to "forget their revolution," about 1,000 of them broke off and marched to the Israeli embassy several kilometres away.

Chanting "Lift your head high, you are an Egyptian," they demolished about half of the security wall outside the mission with sledge-hammers and a hefty metal bar, as military police looked on from nearby.

Then a protester clambered up the building embassy and removed the flag, throwing it down to the rapturous crowd below.

It was the second time a protester performed the stunt in a month.

On August 21, protester Ahmed Shehat became a national hero when he removed the flag and replaced it with an Egyptian one.

The wall, about two metres high, consists of prefabricated cement slabs that were recently installed around the building that houses the embassy overlooking a bridge in Cairo.

Motorists on the bridge adjacent to the embassy building honked their horns in support as some protesters chanted: "To Jerusalem we will march, one million martyrs!"

As protesters chipped away at the cement with hammers, others threw ropes over the metal bars laid bare and pulled down sections of the walls to cheering and dancing crowds.

Military police in riot gear stood by and did not intervene as protesters demolished up to half of the dozens of metres long wall.

But protesters later scuffled with military police when they tried to force their way down a cordoned side street near the building.

On August 18, Israeli troops killed five Egyptian policemen as they chased militants along the border following a series of Negev desert ambushes that killed eight Israelis.

At the time, outraged Egyptians staged huge protests outside the embassy and called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.

Egypt has asked Israel for an official apology and demanded a probe into the deaths.

At Friday's rally, protesters chanted slogans against the military ruler and current de facto head of state field marshal Hussein Tantawi, who is set to take the witness stand on Sunday when the Mubarak trial resumes.

Ibrahim Ali, an agricultural engineer, said he had come to the capital from northern Egypt to attend the rally.

"None of the revolution's demands have been met," he said. "There is still injustice in the country."

While some protesters in Tahrir headed to the Israeli embassy, others went to the interior ministry to rail against clashes with police in which nearly 80 people were injured and dozens of cars torched on Tuesday night.

There were no police guards outside the ministry, leaving the protesters, who were mostly football supporters, to scrawl anti-police slogans on its front gates.

Several protesters lined up to urinate on the gate while others removed a steel and brass eagle emblem from the gate and threw it over the wall.

Witnesses said some protesters pelted the building with stones in the evening but local residents came down to stop them.

Friday's protest was called by mostly secular and leftist activists, and is being boycotted by the influential Muslim Brotherhood movement and other Islamist groups.

Mohsen Rady, a senior Brotherhood member, told state television his movement believes Egyptians were weary of protests.

"People have grown bored of these demonstrations," he said.

Secular activists are concerned the military's current timetable for parliamentary elections this autumn will play into the hands of the
Brotherhood by denying new political movements the time to organise into parties.

The activists are also demanding an end to the military trials of civilians.


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