Deadlock Between Egypt Police, Protesters on 7Th Day of Cairo Unrest

Haaretz reporter in Tahrir Square says protesters report police shooting metal bullets at protesters; Defense Minister Tantawi becomes focus of Cairo.

CAIRO - Violence between Egyptian security forces and protesters continued Thursday, with police trying to block protesters from reaching the Interior Ministry building in Cairo, and protesters trying to stop police from reaching Tahrir Square.

Protesters threw stones at police, who have responded with stones. One protester, Husam Said, said “the police are also shooting metal bullets and some protesters have already lost their eyes from this.”

Egypt - AP - 24.11.2011

Motorcycles are transporting wounded protesters to a first-aid point set up in Tahrir Square.

Later Thursday, police blocked access to Tahrir Square.

Police have been unable to enter the square for the past two days of unrest, in which at least 40 people have died.

A group of young protesters have prepared Molotov cocktails in case the police try to re-enter the square.

Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Military Council which took power ‘temporarily’ with the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, has become the focus of the protests. The most oft-heard chant in Cairo’s streets is “the people demand that Marshal leaves.”

One protesters explained, “as far as we are concerned, Tantawi is like Mubarak’s son. There will be no changes here as long as he stays.”

The army in general is seen as being on the side of the protesters, who say “the soldiers are our brothers,” instead aiming their anger at the police.

There are hardly any soldiers on the streets of Cairo, although in some other Egyptian cities, military police have taken part in suppressing protests.

Meanwhile, the first stage of parliamentary elections is still due to take place on Monday, although some opposition parties are demanding a delay until the Egypt’s military council agrees to transfer power to a civil authority, and set a date for presidential elections.

Among the protesters, the elections have lost their relevance. “What are elections worth when the army continues to hold on to power and the police continues to go crazy unchecked.”

One group that would like to stick to the original election date is the Muslim Brotherhood, which stands to make significant gains in an election, given that they are the most organized political opposition group in Egypt today.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not support the current protests, and there do not seem to be any islamists among the protesters now in Tahrir Square.

Egypt's military rulers apologized Thursday for the killing of protesters in central Cairo's Tahrir Square over the past five days.

"The [ruling] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses deep sorrow and apology for the martyrdom of Egyptians [killed] in recent incidents in Tahrir," the junta said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Thirty-six people have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters demanding a swift transition to civilian rule, to the Health Ministry.

The council promised to act "swiftly and firmly" to prosecute all those involved in the violence.

The military has been ruling Egypt since a popular revolt unseated former president Hosni Mubarak in February.