Egypt threatens to use live rounds in security crackdown
By Jack Shenker
Interim military regime says it will open fire to protect buildings after Israeli embassy in Cairo was attacked.
Egyptian authorities have detained a further 92 people and vowed to use live ammunition to protect key buildings following the storming of the Israeli embassy last week, which left three protesters dead and provoked the worst crisis in Israel-Egypt relations for a generation.
“We won’t allow anyone to attack the interior ministry or any police station,” the interior minister, Mansour al-Essawy, told state TV. “According to the law, we will resist … If there is a danger to a building or those present inside the building, we will confront with bullets.”
The latest crackdown brings the total number of arrests from Friday’s protests to 130, and comes as Turkey’s prime minister prepares to fly into the Egyptian capital on Monday night, to begin a four-day tour of north Africa.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is embroiled in his own diplomatic row with Israel over the killing of pro-Palestinian Turkish activists by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid flotilla ship last year, will address the Arab League on Tuesday. He is expected to outline Turkey’s new “regional foreign policy vision”, promoting closer ties with revolutionary Arab countries and sidelining their one-time ally Israel.
The trip will involve high-level talks with the de facto Egyptian leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and the interim prime minister, Essam Sharaf, with discussions focused on the forthcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, which both countries support, and the development of closer business links between the two nations. Turkey’s trade with the Arab world has increased six-fold under Erdogan’s rule – an indication of the country’s shifting diplomatic and economic priorities in the Middle East.
Erdogan’s rhetoric is likely to resonate strongly in post-Mubarak Egypt, where anger has been mounting in recent weeks over Israel’s blockade of Gaza and a recent border incident that left six Egyptian soldiers dead at the hands of Israeli military forces.
The latest developments have left Egypt’s military junta in a tricky position, as it seeks to appease public anger while reassuring foreign allies that it will carry on meeting its international obligations under the Camp David peace treaty with Israel.
Meanwhile, the separate trial of 25 former regime stalwarts on the charge of organising February’s “battle of the camel” assault on Tahrir Square has begun. The incident on 2 February, which took place at the height of the anti-Mubarak uprising and provided some of the revolution’s most memorable images, saw pro-Mubarak thugs on horses and camels armed with rods and maces charging protesters, and capped one of the bloodiest days of this year’s dramatic political upheaval.
An official report into the attack accused Safwat el-Sherif, a senior figure in Mubarak’s ruling NDP party, of organising the assault. Sherif and his fellow defendants have denied all the charges against them.