Egypt spiraled into utter chaos Friday night, an upheaval that happened with alarming speed. Just Friday afternoon, the government was still able to monitor and control the protests, only to have the calm shattered that evening.
According to medical sources at least five protesters have been killed and 1,030 wounded in Cairo alone. Thirteen were killed in Suez and six in Alexandria, putting the current death count at 24.
The Egyptian chief of staff has cut his trip to the United States short, and is on his way back to Egypt. Egyptian airlines have halted all international flights by order of President Mubarak.
The breaking point in the relative calm was at 6:00 PM, when tens of thousands of protesters defied the curfew set by Mubarak. Egyptians unleashed their wrath on the police who retreated, replaced by soldiers who have thus far refrained from injuring civilians. Many demonstrators paraded the streets with police helmets they were able to nab from the police and streets of Cairo were ablaze with burning police cars.
The military took over key posts including the television building, the parliament, the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry. Egyptian protesters continued to demonstrate despite the military presence, and even set fire to army vehicles and smashed the windshields of several army jeeps.
Despite the vandalism, soldiers and civilians have yet to clash. Officers have attempted to calm the masses and convince them to return home.
"Go home quietly and tomorrow morning you will hear happy news on TV," said a colonel in a fruitless attempt to send the protesters home. When asked about the orders the army has received he responded "I don't know. We have not been able to get any clear message from the government."
Police and security forces that until Friday were able to contain protesters using tear gas and force are nowhere to be seen.
It appears as through all public order has crumbled in Cairo. People are marching in the streets, chanting "No to Hosni Mubarak and no to Gamal Mubarak!" Many believe that after the days of protest, the current president's son, Gamal, will not be able to succeed his aging father as president.
The offices of Mubarak's party were on fire for hours, surrounded by magazines and computers protesters pillaged from the building. The walls of the building were covered with anti-Mubarak graffiti.
Egyptians of all ages have taken to the streets to protest Mubarak's government. Sabri Amin, a 41-year-old musician, was amongst the demonstrators that congregated outside a television complex.
"We don't know if the army is on our side or on the police's side," Amin told Haaretz. "So many people have been killed today so we have to be careful. We have told the army that we will not budge for them either- this is not a demonstration, this is a revolution."
All around Amin, the crowds shouted "Mubarak! Mubarak! They are waiting for you in Saudi Arabia!" This was in reference to the former president of Tunisia who fled Tunisia amidst the riots that inspired the current Egyptian upheaval and found refuge in Saudi Arabia.
Rachmi Haidi, a 60-year-old Egyptian school principal told Haaretz "What is happening now is the result of Mubarak and his gang plundering the nation for 30 years. They represent the interests of the United States and Israel, not Egypt."
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