'Million Man' anti-Israel Rally in Cairo Attracts Only Hundreds

Most Egyptian protest groups announce would participate in demonstration to expel Israel's ambassador over five Egyptian policemen killed by IDF; however, turnout much lower than expected.

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Hundreds of Egyptians gathered Friday outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo in what was supposed to be a "million-man march" calling on the government to expel Israel's ambassador.

Most Egyptian protest groups announced that they would participate in the demonstration to expel the ambassador over the border incident last week in which five Egyptian policemen were killed by the IDF. However, the protesters who actually arrived were far fewer in number.

Egyptians protesting outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo on Sunday August 21, 2011.Credit: Reuters

The police deaths occurred on August 19 during a shootout with militants near the Egyptian border, following attacks on a bus and other vehicles killed eight Israelis.

"The people want the right of our martyrs in Sinai be regained," protesters, holding the Egyptian flags, chanted outside the embassy amid tight security. Others shouted: "The people's first demand is to have the ambassador evicted."

One of the protesters shot in the air and managed to leave the scene before police could arrest him, according to witnesses.

A 23-year-old Egyptian, Ahmed Shahhat, climbed to the roof of the 13-story apartment building housing the embassy early Sunday morning and removed the Israeli flag from the roof, replacing it with an Egyptian flag he had carried with him.

Shahhat, who became an instant folk hero in Egypt, said his action had come in protest against the killing of the three Egyptian soldiers. A resident in the building opened his balcony door for Shahhat, who made the rest of the way down by elevator and was welcomed by thousands of protesters who have been demonstrating outside the building with calls to suspend the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

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