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EGYPT: Under a torrent of Gaza anger, Cairo defends itself

December 30, 2008 |  8:04 am

Gazacairo

Egypt has seized on the death of an Egyptian security officer, allegedly killed by Hamas at the border with Gaza, to defuse public sympathy for the political group amid mounting regional pressure. 

Most state-owned newspapers ran a picture of slain Egyptian officer Yasser Essawy on their front pages Tuesday and condemned "Hamas irrationality.”

Mohamed Barakat, the editor in chief of Al-Akhbar daily wrote:

“Despite our deep and continuous sympathy with the Palestinian people in the ordeal they are facing now and despite our anger at the unjust aggression and the brutal cleansing they are going through, we consider what happened [to the officer] a major flaw that shows blindness and irrationality…

Hamas heroes, who suffer from shortsightedness and the inability to distinguish right and wrong and friends and foes, are the ones responsible for the blood of the Egyptian martyr Essam Essawi. They [Hamas fighters] acted haphazardly, which allowed Israel to drag them into this trap and gave it the pretext to launch this attack on Gaza.”

Essawy was allegedly shot dead Sunday by Palestinians at the Egyptian-Gazan border.

Since the outbreak of Israeli air strikes in Gaza, Egypt has been facing regional pressure to open the border crossing.

Demonstrations against the Cairo regime were arranged in Egypt as well as in several Arab capitals. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, criticized Egypt harshly on Sunday and Monday, calling on Egyptians to take to the street to protest their government’s response to the Israeli attack.

In response to this mounting criticism, President Hosni Mubarak said Tuesday that Egypt would keep its border crossings with Gaza closed until his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmud Abbas, regains authority over the territory and a 2005 deal governing their operation is resurrected.

The state-owned media has blamed Iran for instigating all regional pressures. Abdullah Kamal, the editor in chief of Rose-al-youssef newspaper, a staunch supporter of Mubarak’s regime, wrote:

“The Persians are bargaining with their nuclear portfolio and their leverage in the Middle East by mobilizing mercenary militias thinking that they can put a gun to Egypt’s head.”

He added:

“Egypt is paying the price of its support of the independence of Lebanon, its support of legitimate political forces in Palestine against the coup of Hamas militia, its efforts to prevent any complications with the security of the Gulf as well as  its opposition to the Iranian agenda.…

Definitely, a gang leader like Hassan Nasrallah does not understand the meaning a state or that of a a professional military that adheres to constitutional legitimacy and does not surrender to TV incitation…

All those who criticize Egypt’s position should stop saying what they are saying on TV or in demonstrations that besiege Egyptian embassies in different capitals. Why do not they act themselves and fight the war the way they wish?”

The opposition press has voiced similar uproar over the pressures exerted on Egypt.

Abbas El-Tarabilli wrote in the liberal El-Wafd daily:

“We would like to tell everyone including Sheik [Nasrallah] whom we used to respect that Egypt and the Egyptian army have already offered more than 100,000 martyrs to the [Palestinian] question, which they are using now commercially through speeches and satellite channels. He is talking on behalf of his master in Tehran.…

Tell us, what did you offer and how did you contribute to all the wars that Egypt fought against the Israeli enemy? We ask the Sheik: why don’t you address the Iranian army or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and ask them to respond to Israel? We are with the Palestinian people, we support them, we provide them with what they need but we won't let anyone drag us into a war.”

—Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Egyptian women carrying Palestinian flags protest in Cairo on Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press

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