CAIRO: Violent fights broke out between police and demonstrators on Friday early afternoon when a large crowd of protestors gathered at Al-Azhar mosque to voice their anger against Israeli excavations they fear could damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
Prevented from entering the mosque surrounded by a field of state security and police officers in full armor, the mass attempted to break through the security blockade at the mosque entrance.
Curious onlookers from surrounding areas gathered to watch the protest rally as it intensified in number and decibel, but were kept at bay by the road-long massive barricade of police and plainclothes officers.
“What is going on here? It there a new war or what? , an onlooker in the street said while pointing at police vehicles and security agents screaming incessantly in walkie-talkies.
As the situation between police and demonstrators grew more tense, the protestors were pushed down the narrow alleys of Al-Azhar and chased away from the public eye.
Marching down the alley roads filled with weekend shoppers, men in the crowd held up the Quran while others used their mobile phones to take pictures of the demonstration.
Several people from the nearby shops joined the march and chanting while others climbed onto buildings and roofs to witness the rally from a safer location.
” I am going to stay up here. It’s safe and I don’t want to be arrested, a young man told The Daily Star Egypt standing on top of a truck overlooking the protest.
As the mass approached the main road between Al-Azhar and Khan-el-Khalili market, violent clashes broke out between approximately 50 protestors and police when security agents tried to disperse the crowd.
Chanting anti-Israel slogans in the faces of the police, demonstrators were chased into the alleys where several of them were beaten with metal batons by the police when they attempted to flee the scene.
Eyewitnesses claim at least two arrests were made in the incident.
The few journalists present at the demonstration were intimidated by security and carefully instructed to leave the protest and not take photos.
“You better be careful with that camera. The police hates cameras these days since many of the photos depicting security beating protestors end up at Egypt’s popular blogs, a protestor told The Daily Star Egypt’s reporter.
As violence marked the demonstration at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, clashes also broke out at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem between police and a group of demonstrators who barricaded themselves in the mosque and threw stones at the police in protest of the renovation work of Haram el-Sharif.