Thousands of protesters have gathered in Egypt to express their displeasure over war-torn Gaza, with large crowds converging on Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square.
It was gathered that an estimate of thousand people had filled Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising that led to the downfall of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Media outlets reported similar rallies in other Egyptian cities, marking the 14th day of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza following deadly attacks by Hamas on October 7.
Public protests are typically prohibited in Egypt, but President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made a surprising statement on Wednesday during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He asserted that Egyptians had the right to express their disapproval of Israeli actions in Gaza, adding that “millions of Egyptians” would take to the streets in response. Indeed, thousands did so later that day.
Analysts believe Sisi has tried to harness the growing anger in the Arab world’s most populous country regarding the situation in Gaza. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, a political science professor at the University of Cairo, stated, “There is a desire to take control of the public anger.”
Media outlets loyal to the president have identified specific public squares and locations where protests are permitted, urging Egyptians to demonstrate their support for Sisi in advance of the presidential election scheduled for December. Notably, Cairo’s Tahrir Square was not included on this list, which became a point of pride for many of the protesters on Friday.
“We’re not here to give a new mandate to anybody. It’s a genuine demonstration,” the crowd chanted. Later on, the police dispersed the protesters from Tahrir Square to nearby streets, as reported by the AFP correspondent.
The conflict in Gaza began when Hamas, the Islamist ruling authority, launched a deadly raid on southern Israel on October 7. This attack resulted in over 1,400 casualties, predominantly civilians, on Israeli soil. In response, Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of Gaza has led to at least 4,137 fatalities, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.