Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Egypt in support of war-torn Gaza on Friday, with large crowds flooding into Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, an AFP correspondent and Egyptian media said.
The correspondent said several thousand packed into Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Media outlets said rallies also took place in other Egyptian cities on day 14 of Israel’s bombardment of the enclave following Hamas’s deadly October 7 attacks.
Public protests are generally illegal in Egypt but on Wednesday President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz he could “call on the Egyptian people to come out and express their rejection” of Israeli actions in Gaza “and you would see millions of Egyptians” in the street.
Later the same day, thousands took to the streets.
Analysts say Sisi has sought to ride the wave of anger sweeping the Arab world’s most populous country about the plight of Palestinians on its doorstep in Gaza.
“There is a desire to take control of the public anger,” University of Cairo politics professor Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed told AFP.
Media loyal to the president have published a list of public squares and other sites where protests will be tolerated, calling on Egyptians to show their support for Sisi ahead of a presidential election due in December.
Cairo’s Tahrir Square was not among them, a matter of pride for many of those demonstrating on Friday.
“We’re not here to give a new mandate to anybody. It’s a genuine demonstration,” the crowd chanted.
The police later pushed protesters away from the square to nearby streets, the AFP correspondent reported.
The war in Gaza began after its Islamist rulers Hamas carried out a deadly raid on southern Israel on October 7 that left more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, killed on Israeli soil.
At least 4,137 people have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of the territory, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.