Egyptians storm Israeli embassy in mass protest


Click to follow

Hundreds of Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo last night, tearing down parts of a security wall using hammers, poles and their bare hands.

Thousands protested elsewhere in the country, reflecting a growing anger with the country's military rulers over the slow pace of reform, seven months after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.

Demonstrators marched to the embassy from another protest in Tahrir Square, where they demanded a halt to military trials of civilians and a timetable for parliamentary elections.

Egyptian security forces did not intervene as crowds climbed the embassy's security wall, pummelling it with sledge hammers and tearing away large sections of the cement and metal barrier. The Israeli flag was quickly torn down from the top of the 21-storey building for the second time this month.

A group of 30 protesters broke into the embassy building just before midnight, and dropped hundreds of Hebrew-language documents from the windows on to the crowds below.

Earlier, protesters had set fire to a police truck outside the embassy and tried to attack a nearby police station but were turned back by the military.

The Israeli embassy has become a focal point for protests in recent months, as calls have grown for Egypt to end its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, signed under Mubarak. The treaty has been deeply unpopular with the Egyptian public, and anger over ties between the two countries has grown since Israeli forces mistakenly killed five Egyptian police officers last month when they responded to a cross-border militant attack.

Demonstrators in Cairo also converged on the state TV building, a central courthouse and the Interior Ministry, a hated symbol of abuses by police and security forces under Mubarak. The ministry's gates were covered with graffiti and parts of the large ministry seal were torn off.

Other large protests also took place in Alexandria, Suez and several other cities.

Egyptians have grown increasingly distrustful of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control of the country when Mubarak was forced out in February after three decades in power.

Activists accuse the council, headed by Mubarak's former defence minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, of remaining too close to Mubarak's regime and implementing similarly repressive policies, including abusing detainees. The trials of thousands of civilians in military courts has also angered activists.

"In the beginning we were with the military because they claimed to be protectors of the revolution, but month after month nothing has changed," Ghada Nimr, a doctor who was one of those who gathered in Tahrir Square, said.

Ali Mustafa Ali, who travelled from the northern Sinai peninsula to participate in yesterday's protest in Cairo, said: "The military council's politics are not clear. It seems they are trying to stay in control and not hand over power to civilians," he said.

The council has not set a date for the elections, but they are expected to take place in October or November.