x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Protesters criticise Egypt's stand

Cairo witnesses biggest rally since 2006 as crowd condemn president ad foreign minisiter for not opening border to injured Palestinians.

Egyptian anti-riot policemen surround activists protesting against the Israeli attacks in Cairo.
Egyptian anti-riot policemen surround activists protesting against the Israeli attacks in Cairo.

CAIRO // Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Cairo yesterday in support of the people of Gaza as the government deployed hundreds of anti-riot police and metal barricades in a bid to deter them. "Aboul Gheit, you are a coward. Just shut up," shouted the demonstrators in reference to Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister. "The blood of the martyrs will remain a disgrace on the forehead of [Arab] leaders," read one of the many banners carried by protesters, who waved copies of the Quran and chanted pro-Hamas slogans. The crowds also shouted abuse towards Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, during the three-hour protest, which was the biggest in the capital since mid-2006. In a rare appearance, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, addressed the crowd. "It's needless to say that the Zionist enemy, which is occupying Palestine, the Arab and Islamic land, wouldn't have been able to conduct these horrific criminal massacres without scandalous international complicity, humiliating silence, shameful impotence and disgraceful Arab collaboration." He urged them to "continue showing their anger by peaceful means and confronting the shameful media deception by the fifth column in Egypt". The protesters gathered in response to a call by Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader, who on Sunday urged Egyptians in a televised address to take to the streets to force their government to open the border with Gaza. "After what is happening, if you Egyptian officials won't open the Rafah crossing, you will be partners in the killing and in the Palestinian tragedy," Sheikh Nasrallah said. "Go out in millions, Egyptian people, the police won't be able to kill millions," he added, urging Egyptians "to open the crossing with their chests". The protesters, who gathered people outside the Journalists' Union, came from all over the country. "I'm here because the Brotherhood asked us to protest," said Moustafa Awad, 31, who came from Tanta, more than two hours away from Cairo. "Ninety-five per cent of the people here are from the Brotherhood," he said. In a press conference held yesterday afternoon in Ankara, Mr Aboul Gheit responded to the criticism from Sheikh Nasrallah. "They have practically declared war on Egypt via several satellite stations. The Egyptian people reject and opposes this declaration. "They want for there to be chaos in Egypt as there is in their country," Mr Aboul Gheit said of Hizbollah. "I tell this man [Nasrallah]: No, no! Our armed forces can defend our homeland from people like you. Your interest in creating chaos is not in the best interest of the area," he added. Mr Aboul Gheit defended his country, saying Egypt had tried to prevent the escalation in violence by asking Israel not to carry out an operation in the Gaza Strip. Egypt has been under fire from several Arab and Islamic countries and people are staging protests in front of Egypt's embassies in their countries. "I adore Nasrallah, but I think he was too optimistic and thought very highly of the Egyptian people when he thought that Egyptians could force the Rafah crossing open with their chests," said Ibrahim Eissa, the editor of an opposition daily newspaper, Al Destour. "The truth is that the Egyptian people are exhausted and besieged by thousands of security officers who managed to scare the Egyptians. Therefore, no one will respond to Nasrallah's appeal because the nation who can't confront despotism won't be able to combat its enemy or support its brothers," Eissa said. "However, maybe the thousands who demonstrated today against Gaza massacre and the Egyptian regime's role in it, represent a glimmer at moments," he said, adding that Mr Aboul Gheit "is serving like a spokesman to Livni rather than to Egypt. The man is a failure and disgrace to Egypt." "Minister Aboul Gheit is wrong all the time," wrote columnist Ahmed el Moslemani in the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm yesterday. "He failed in almost all files: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Sudan and worst in Gaza war now ... I wish if the minister has to wake up early, to do us the favour of remaining silent until he goes back to sleep, then Egypt will regain its reverence, which would be much better," he added. nmagd@thenational.ae