After deadly incident in Sinai
Egyptians cheer burning of Israeli flag
Published Aug 25, 2011 9:51 PM
Ahmed el-Shahat became an instant hero, known on Twitter as #Flagman, when in
the early hours of Aug. 21 he scaled the walls of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo,
removed its flag and replaced it with an Egyptian flag.
A multinational crowd, including many youth and a significant number of
Jewish men and women, gathered before the Israeli Consulate in New York to
protest the recent attacks on the Gaza border and in Gaza. They chanted,
“Stop the bombing! Free Palestine!” and “Not another penny,
not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes. From the river to
the sea, Palestine will be free!”
A huge crowd that had been demonstrating at the embassy then burned the Israeli
flag that Shahat had captured.
It was another sign that the people of Egypt are furious at the killing of
three Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai. Israel has not admitted officially that
it killed the Egyptians, but has said that their deaths were an accident that
happened during Israel’s aerial pursuit of unidentified militants who had
earlier carried out several attacks on soldiers in southern Israel, killing at
Richard Lightbown, writing for the Palestine Chronicle, said of the attacks
inside Israel: “A large variety of weaponry is reported to have been used
in the attacks including mortar fire, an anti-tank missile and an RPG
[rocket-propelled grenade] device that was fired at a pursuing helicopter.
Explosives were laid alongside the road. In a further shooting attack in the
same area later that afternoon two Israeli soldiers were wounded and three
gunmen died. The sophistication and success of this attack demonstrate an
unusual level of competence.”
Israel blamed Palestinians coming from Gaza for the attack, but Hamas, the
elected authority there, categorically denied that Gaza had anything to do with
it. The attack occurred near Israel’s border with Sinai some 150 miles
south of Gaza.
The anger of the Egyptian people had been simmering for a long time before this
incident brought it to the boil. Like most of the Arab world, they have long
sympathized with the Palestinian struggle. The Camp David Accords, signed by
Hosni Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar El Sadat of Egypt and Israeli Prime
Minister Menachem Begin and brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, had
returned the Sinai desert to Egypt in 1979, but with qualifications. Israel,
which had seized the Sinai from Egypt in 1967, withdrew its troops, but Egypt
was required to police the area in coordination with Israel.
In recent years, since Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007, the
U.S.-supported Mubarak regime of Egypt had helped Israel keep the Palestinians
in Gaza sealed off from the world. But this year’s uprising in Egypt that
brought down Mubarak also resulted in an easing of the siege of Gaza.
Obviously, Israel didn’t like that.
The U.S. has been maneuvering behind the scenes to keep this latest incident
from igniting the Egyptian masses once again. Before the Israeli aerial attack
that killed the Egyptian soldiers, it looked as though the old pattern of the
Egyptian military collaborating with both Israel and the U.S. had been
restored. But since the Egyptian masses took to the streets again to protest
Israel’s violation of Egypt’s airspace and territory, the Egyptian
cabinet has been meeting in crisis mode.
Despite the historic rising of the masses in Egypt that toppled Mubarak, the
ruling cabinet is still dominated by the same military. But, as was seen during
the Tahrir Square demonstrations, the loyalty of the rank and file of the army
if called out to repress the people is questionable. During the huge
demonstration at the Israeli Embassy, “Egyptian soldiers took up
positions in armored cars nearby, but kept their distance in an apparent
attempt to avoid confrontations.” (New York Times, Aug. 22)
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