CAIRO: Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday in support of the Palestinian cause and to advocate national unity, following the Imbaba clashes which left 12 dead and 240 injured.
Sheikh Mazhar Shahin, the imam of the Omar Makram mosque, gave a moving Friday sermon stressing the importance of national unity.
Thousands of protesters prayed for national unity, the protection of the January 25 Revolution and the unity and freedom of the Palestinians, with several protesters brought to tears.
Shahin also called for the resignation of the heads of all local councils and governors who were appointed by the former regime and called on Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to combat corruption.
Shahin said that Egypt would focus on rebuilding and establishing a new government following the revolution and then focus on aiding Palestine in establishing a state and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Palestine is in Egypt’s heart," he said.
Mohamed Fouad, deputy head of the State Council, cited the demands of the Coordinating Committee for the People of the Revolution.
The demands include the swift prosecution of those responsible for sectarian tension; the prosecution of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and other corrupt officials; sacking all governors and ministers affiliated with the former regime, namely Deputy Prime Minister Yehia Al-Gamal; the resignation of the heads of local councils who were appointed by the ousted regime; and the return of police forces and security back on the street.
Protesters cheered and some women ululated when news was announced of the detention of former first lady Suzanne Mubarak for 15 days pending investigations.
Several political figures participated in the mass protest, including Mohamed Ali, member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s executive bureau, Islamic scholar Safwat Hegazy and Karima Al-Hifnawy, founding member of the Kefaya Movement and member of the National Association for Change (NAC).
Ali said that the Brotherhood would protect Egypt’s revolution and support national unity.
Al-Hifnawy called for the return of all the Palestinian refugees to Palestine. She said that she and other political powers were heading to the Gaza Strip on Saturday to support the Palestinians and deliver aid to them.
The protesters hung a dummy in the middle of the square with a blue star painted on it representing Israel.
Abdel Hady, engineer, told Daily News Egypt, "We want our voice to reach the world."
"We haven’t forgotten about the Palestinians," he added.
University student Mahmoud Mallah said that he has been looking forward to the day where he could put an end to the Israeli state more than he was looking forward to his own wedding.
"We want to illuminate Israel from the face of the earth," Mallah said.
Mallah believed that recent sectarian clashes in Imbaba were ignited by Israeli spies to revert Egypt’s attention away from the Palestinian conflict.
Many protesters accused the former regime of inciting the recent sectarian clashes in Egypt to cause instability and havoc.
English teacher Hagar Sayed said, "We need to unite as Muslims and Christians.
"We shouldn’t follow any rumor or any misinformation that could divide us," she added.
The Justice Party participated in the protest and organized activities for children where they drew pictures of how they wanted Egypt to be. They also spread a large banner reading, "The most powerful weapon against our revolution is sectarian strife."
People were invited to write messages on the banners such as "Egypt is for all Egyptians," and "Religion is for God and the nation is for all."
Meanwhile, thousand of Copts joined in the open sit-in in front of the nearby state-TV building, demanding the prosecution of those responsible for the Imbaba clashes and the release of all Coptic detainees.
Protesters chanted, "Raise your head up high, you’re Coptic."
The protesters said that the people in Tahrir were welcome to join them.
Engineer Ahmed Maher said, "Our demands are the same as the people in Tahrir Square; we are calling for equality and national unity."
"The only thing Christians want is to be able to go to church and pray safely, without being attacked," he added.
The protesters demanded that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, meet with them and discuss their problems and demands.
Demonstrators hold the flags of Arab nations at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on May 13. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)
Palestinian flags were waved as protesters chanted for Palestine and for national unity in Tahrir. (Daily News Egypt Photo/Hassan Ibrahim)