CAIRO - A protester was killed yesterday when he was run over by a police vehicle during mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square that called for Egypt's military leaders to step down from power.
But, in general, order was maintained in the Egyptian capital over the weekend, despite the gathering of tens of thousands of demonstrators.
Meanwhile, the army and the interim government continued to prepare for Monday's first round of parliamentary elections. The elections threaten to split the opposition: While some members of the protest movement are calling for this week's elections to be deferred until power is transferred to civilian hands, and several parties have announced that they would boycott the balloting, the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to win a large number of seats in parliament. In an effort to ensure orderly elections, the Islamic group has said it does not support the current wave of protests.
But a large number of Muslim Brotherhood members turned up in a show of support for the demonstrators nonetheless, and some of the movement's members announced they were breaking with the organization. One female university student declared that, although she was an Islamist, the Muslim Brotherhood had shown it was only out for its own interests and she would not vote for the group.
Convinced of their upcoming success in the vote, some Muslim Brotherhood supporters had concerns beyond Egypt's borders - over Israel's intentions to dismantle the temporary Mughrabi bridge leading to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. At Al-Azhar University, a stronghold of the movement, giant posters called for the defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the mount, and Palestinian flags mingled with Egyptian ones. Guests of honor at prayers at the university were members of a Hamas delegation that was in Cairo for talks with Palestinian Authority officials.
One Muslim Brotherhood activist, Bayuma Tayara, said his group did not need to campaign at this point. The movement has been doing grassroots work for years, he said, and every Egyptian knows who the Muslim Brotherhood is. He denied that the group was busying itself with the Palestinian issue to distract attention from ongoing demonstrations in Cairo and said the group was sure of victory.
Sermon after sermon before and after the prayers at the university accused Israel of harming Muslim holy places and claimed that the Jews were defiling Palestine. One speaker said that all of Palestine would be liberated via Cairo's Tahrir Square - where demonstrations earlier this year brought down President Hosni Mubarak's regime.
Among the crowd was Abed Khaled, an accountant, who said the Jews would be fought until the fighters' last drop of blood. Acknowledging that such a step was not currently feasible, he said that after an election victory the army would be prepared for war against Israel.
For his part, however, another Muslim Brotherhood activist said that if Israel respects Palestinian rights, the peace treaty with Israel could be maintained, saying that he and his colleagues wanted to live in peace with Israel.
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