A protester outside of the Israeli embassy in Cairo yesterday.(Maggie Osama)
Multiple publications in Egypt have reported that more than 350 persons were injured by Egyptian forces during a protest outside of the Israeli consulate in the Cairo suburb of Giza last night, citing health ministry figures.
Peaceful protests outside of the Israeli embassy were ongoing on Sunday, the day that marks the Palestinin Nakba — the forced dispossession of the Palestinian homeland with the establishment of the State of Israel. But the scene turned violent towards the end of the night.
There have been frequent demonstrations outside of the Israeli embassy and protesters, marking the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba or dispossession yesterday, chanted that the ambassador must go.
The demonstrators were dispersed by Military Police and Central Security Forces about an hour before midnight using tear gas grenades and rubber bullets. Eyewitnesses say live ammunition was also used. Media reports stated that medical sources in Om El-Masreeyeen hospital reported one injured by a gunshot to the head.
Several demonstrators were also arrested. Videos of the arrests and the clashes have been circulating on social media venues, such as Twitter and Facebook. One video showed a demonstrator shot by a bullet in the stomach.
At least two protesters were shot by live ammunition, while others were hospitalised after inhaling tear gas or being hit by rubber-coated steel bullets, some of which penetrated the skin, witnesses said.
One protester, Atef Yehia, was shot in the head, while another, Ali Khalaf, was shot in the abdomen. Both survived, though Yehia was being kept on a ventilator and would likely suffer brain damage, his friend said on Monday afternoon.
The crackdown on the protest also marked a setback for activists campaigning to limit the military’s judicial power in post-revolutionary Egypt. A senior police officer told Al Jazeera that 137 protesters had been arrested and would be questioned by a military prosecutor. As they awaited questioning, the protesters was being held in Hikestep military prison on the outskirts of Cairo, according to activists and a human-rights lawyer.
Egyptian and Jordanian security forces prevented hundreds of protesters from trying to cross into Israeli-controlled territory. Egyptian police used riot dispersal methods against thousands of demonstrators in Alexandria and Cairo protesting outside the Israeli embassy and consulate.
An end of the Mubarak regime’s cozy relations with Israel has been a key part of the Egyptian opposition’s demands. The transitional government says it is considering lifting the blockade on Gaza, which was maintained by Israel in partnership with the Mubarak government.
Egypt’s recent brokering of the Hamas-Fatah national unity agreement is further indication that Egypt is more willing to buck Israel and the US’ interests. Activists are also calling for an end to an unpopular natural gas export deal between Egypt and Israel:
The deal was always unpopular with many Egyptians, who complained that Mubarak sold the public short by selling gas to Israel at a lower price than Israel pays for gas from privately operated companies in its own country. Lawsuits to challenge the deal were unsuccessful.