Egyptian police wound 350 ‘Nakba Day’ protesters

Cairo police fire tear gas at demonstrators after barrier in front of Israeli embassy is breached; 186 detained by military.

By JOSHUA HAMERMAN
May 17, 2011 00:40
Pro-Palestinian protesters in Cairo [illustrative]

Pro-Palestinian protesters in Cairo 311 (R). (photo credit: Nasser Nuri / Reuters)

Over 350 protesters were wounded on Sunday during a Nakba Day demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

According to reports picked up by Reuters on Monday from the Egyptian state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA), police fired tear gas at a crowd of several hundred after demonstrators breached a barricade on Sunday night.

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MENA reported that out of 353 people wounded in front of the embassy, 45 were taken to hospitals and 186 were detained by the military.

“The injuries varied from suffocation caused by tear gas and bruises to minor injuries caused by shoving,” Abdel Hamid Abaza, a senior Egyptian health and population ministry official, told MENA.

Egypt’s government-controlled Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the crowd had been dispersed by central security and military police forces on Sunday at around 11 p.m. Rubber bullets and tear-gas grenades were used, and eyewitnesses said live ammunition was fired, according to Al-Ahram.

Yigal Palmor, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said no member of the Cairo embassy staff had been injured. “We think the Egyptian security forces have shown competence and responsibility,” Palmor said.

When asked whether Nakba Day demonstrations in Egypt signaled trouble for Egyptian- Israeli relations, Palmor responded, “I think it’s quite clear that the demonstrations managed to attract only a relatively small crowd, so they are no indicator of the future of the relationship.”

Al-Ahram reported on Sunday that protesters carried Palestinian flags and chanted, “The people want to dismantle Israel.” The demonstration reached “a couple of thousand” people by 4 p.m. that day, according to Al-Ahram, which also stated that Egyptians wanted to demonstrate at their country’s border with Israel but were prevented from doing so because the Sinai was sealed off.

Protesters also chanted, “The people’s first demand is to shut down the embassy and send back the ambassador” and “Egyptians will liberate Palestine,” the newspaper said. Many wore “Third Palestinian Intifada” T-shirts which were sold “all over downtown Cairo,” Al-Ahram said.

Norman Finkelstein, controversial author of The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, attended the demonstration and was scheduled to speak at the American University in Cairo on Monday, Al-Ahram reported.

AFP reported that demonstrators killed in Nakba Day protests in southern Lebanon were buried on Monday, and that schools and shops in Palestinian refugee camps there were closed for a day of mourning. The IDF blamed most and possibly all the casualties on the Lebanese Armed Forces.

At the funeral of Muhammad Salem at the Al-Bass refugee camp in Tyre, the crowd shouted, “Your blood will not die, we will have vengeance,” and “There is no God but God, our martyr is God’s beloved,” AFP said.

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Various reports put the total number of Nakba Day demonstration deaths at around 13, which includes about 10 killed in southern Lebanon.

Israel was condemned by Arab and Iranian leaders for opening fire on protesters.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted by Reuters as saying in a televised speech regarding the victims, “Their precious blood will not be wasted. It was spilled for the sake of our nation’s freedom.”

Taher al-Nono, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said, the “crowds we have seen in Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon” are evidence of “imminent victory and return to the original homes as promised by God,” according to Reuters.

Al-Ahram said Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil el-Arabi, who was appointed secretarygeneral of the Arab League on Sunday, “placed the blame for the deterioration of the Palestinian crisis on Israel and asked them to respect human rights, which stipulate the right to protest peacefully, and warned them to avoid using violence.”

The newspaper also stated that Arabi felt Israel’s actions showed “that Israelis do not understand the sweeping changes in the Middle East that will also affect Palestine.”

In a statement from Hezbollah carried by AFP, Secretary- General Hassan Nasrallah commented on Nakba Day events along the Lebanese and Syrian borders: “We must bow before the courage, the bravery, of those who protested yesterday at Lebanon and Syria’s borders with occupied Palestine, who faced the tyranny of the enemy with bare chests and their heads held high.”

He added, “Your message, loud and clear, to the enemy is that you will liberate your lands, that the fate of this entity [Israel] is demise, and that no initiatives, treaties or borders will protect it. You, the honorable, have given the Nakba new meaning.”

Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami was quoted by Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper as condemning “the criminal act which Israel has committed through targeting unarmed civilians.”

The Daily Star reported that Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement issued a statement calling Israel’s actions “a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and a direct aggression on it through opening fire toward Lebanese territories.”

Meanwhile, Siamak Mareh Sedgh, who represents the Iranian Jewish community in the Iranian Parliament, told Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency that Iranian Jews “express indignation over Zionist regime violence and remind that the inhuman actions of Israel have no compatibility with pure and divine guidance of Prophet Moses.”

Iranian MP Avaz Heidarpour, a member of the parliament’s security and foreign policy commission, told the Fars News Agency in Iran on Monday, “The Zionist regime’s fear for regional revolutions and anti-Zionism rallies throughout the world was the reason behind the massacre of the Palestinians on Nakba Day.”

A Nakba Day demonstration was also held at the Israeli consulate in Alexandria, Egypt, on Friday.


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