Egyptian security forces surrounded the Israeli embassy Friday night to keep thousands of rioters from ripping down the Israeli flag in the worst anti-Israel protest since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.
The demonstrators, burning Israel flags, marched from Tahrir Square to the embassy and raised Palestinian Authority flags on an adjacent mosque and on windows of nearby buildings.
“They tried to reach the flag on top of the embassy but failed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Israel National News Sunday. He added that the incident was not out of the ordinary except for the large number of demonstrators.
However, it was the first time Egyptians have protested so close to the embassy, which effectively was off-limits before the provisional military government replaced Mubarak.
“The Egyptian military surrounded the building where the embassy is located,” according to a Muslim blogger. “Mild clashes erupted when the military feared that the protestors might attempt to break into the building housing the embassy,” wrote Dr. Ashraf Ezzat, who describes himself as a Jordanian now living in Bahrain.
One huge banner read, “15 May: The Third Palestinian Intifada,” which has been promoted on Facebook pages and throughout the Muslim world. May 15 is the secular date of the re-establishment of the State of Israel.
The crowd shouted for a suspension of Egyptian diplomatic ties with Israel and a halt in exporting natural gas to the Jewish State.
“We will stay here as long as it takes for our demands to be met, and then we can concentrate on our domestic demands again,” one protester told the Al Masry Al Youm website. It added that “a high-ranking military officer …assured them that he agrees with all demands and that he will deliver them to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.”
Earlier on Friday, Muslim Brotherhood members said the group will throw its official weight behind demonstrations against the country's provisional military leadership, which protest leaders complain has been too slow to purge and prosecute lingering elements of Mubarak's regime.
The Brotherhood's return to Tahrir Square, the symbolic epicenter of Egypt's protest movement, may also be designed to deal with internal dissent among its younger, more radical members. Younger members of the Brotherhood have openly criticized the group's top-down leadership structure and its leaders' perceived timidity in challenging the ruling junta.