OBSERVATIONS FROM IRAQ, IRAN,
ISRAEL, THE ARAB WORLD AND BEYOND
Breaking official silence over the escalating unrest in neighboring Egypt, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he was monitoring events with "vigilance and worry" and feared radical Islamists could take advantage of any leadership vacuum.
Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem that he was concerned about the fate of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt should President Hosni Mubarak be forced out of power and replaced by someone more belligerent toward Israel.
The comments made at a press event with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel were the first substantive admissions by Netanyahu of concern over potential consequences for Israel from the weeklong protests demanding Mubarak's ouster.
Netanyahu said the demonstrations paralyzing Cairo and other major Egyptian cities weren't instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood movement but that, as one of the few organized opposition groups in the Arab country, the movement could "take advantage" of the situation to enhance its power.
Mubarak's predecessor as head of state, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic radicals angered by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel signed at Camp David. Egypt was the first country in the region to make peace with Israel, and Mubarak, who came to power after Sadat's death, has maintained a stable relationship with Israel throughout his nearly 30-year rule.
-- Carol J. Williams
Foreign telecommunications companies are helping to provide Egyptians with Internet access over fixed phone lines after the Cairo government's shutdown of online and cellular services.
French Data Network of Paris announced on its website Monday that it had activated old and little-used dial-up options for those cut off from their usual mobile networks. The Egyptian government has shut down most of the country's Internet access in an attempt to thwart coordination of protests against the authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
The Geneva-based Internet Society estimates that at least 90% of Internet networks in Egypt are out of service.
Some foreign mobile phone service providers, including Vodafone Group and France Telecom, have restored coverage after initially complying with Cairo government orders to suspend service.
Also, the two Egyptian Internet sites used most often by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, Ikhwanonline and Egypt Window, were being updated regularly, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Despite the official attempts at isolating the protesters, demonstrations have been mounting and leaders of the coalescing opposition have managed to get the word out that a million-man rally is planned for Cairo on Tuesday.
-- Carol J. Williams
The United States and other foreign governments stepped up evacuation of their citizens caught up in Egypt's spreading unrest on Monday, although a midafternoon curfew was frustrating travel within the country.
Egyptian railway authorities said trains had been halted to conform to the 3 p.m.-to-8 a.m. curfew announced Sunday by the government in an attempt to dispel protesters demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30 years in power.
Two flights organized by the U.S. State Department took more than 200 Americans to Cyprus and Greece on Monday, and others were planned to evacuate diplomats, students, business travelers and tourists stranded by the chaos enveloping Egypt for the last week.
Israel also sent two planes to carry its nationals home to safety, and Canada and Thailand announced special government-arranged flights to collect their citizens.
Normal air traffic to and from Egypt's major cities has been sharply curtailed by those carriers still flying to the besieged country, and many airlines, including U.S. carrier Delta Airlines, have indefinitely suspended service because of the unrest.
-- Carol J. Williams
Authorities in Egypt appear to be stepping up a clampdown on the media as anti-government protests continue. Six reporters from the pan-Arabic satellite news channel Al Jazeera English were reportedly detained temporarily on Monday and had their equipment confiscated by the Egyptian military.
Al Jazeera announced Monday that six of its journalists had been detained and some of its camera equipment seized by the Egyptian military following government attempts to silence the network. The journalists were released shortly thereafter.
Al Jazeera has emerged as the leading network in covering the uprising in Egypt with correspondents in every major Egyptian city reporting in both English and Arabic.
On Sunday, the network reported tht President Hosni Mubarak's government revoked Al Jazeera's accreditation
and ordered its Cairo bureau to close. The station has continued to broadcast from Egypt, but its anchors have noted significant restrictions in their journalists' freedom of movement and ability to report.
At 2:11 p.m., Al Jazeera English correspondent Dan Nolan tweeted
: "4 soldiers entered room took our camera. We are under military arrest #Egypt #jan25."A few minutes later he tweeted: "unsure if arrested or about to be deported. 6 of us held at army checkpoint outside Hilton hotel."
Protesters and political analysts have quickly denounced embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's Cabinet shuffle as an empty gesture and a desperate attempt to cling to power.
Monday's appointment of new finance and interior ministers, following the naming on Saturday of the first vice president of Mubarak's 30-year rule, seemed more to galvanize his opponents than placate them. Tens of thousands continued to demonstrate and paralyze economic life in the capital, Cairo.
Shouts of "Get Out" rang through an emboldened crowd on Tahrir Square, where Mubarak opponents have gathered for seven days running in the nation's most defiant challenge of his authoritarian regime. Protesters ignored the government's expanded curfew that began at 3 p.m. Monday and was intended to keep people off the streets until 8 a.m.
"This is a failed attempt. He is done with," Mostafa el-Naggar, a member of emerging opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei's Association for Change, told the Associated Press.
Outside Egypt, analysts also saw the Cabinet appointments as unlikely to slow the mounting unrest in the nation of 80 million, the Middle East's most populous.
"This new Cabinet is too little, too late. I think Mubarak will probably be gone well before 30 days is up," Zaineb Al-Assam, a Middle East expert at London's Exclusive Analysis, told the Reuters news agency.
-- Carol J. Williams
Despite the Egyptian government's attempts to control the flow of information out of Egypt by intermittently cutting off Internet access
, blocking phone lines and cracking down on media outlets
, protesters on the ground and supporters abroad are combining efforts online to provide a ground's-eye view of the unfolding protest movement.
The above video of a group of protesters in Cairo was posted without comment Saturday. Within hours, a commenter had provided an accurate translation of the slogans being chanted:
"Leave, leave, Mubarak! Tel Aviv is waiting for you! Gamal, tell your father, the Egyptian people hate you! We've had enough! They've raised the price of sugar and oil; they've wrecked our homes. Raise your voice, people of Egypt! We can't even find beans!"
With lawlessness and violence is gripping Egyptian cities, many are wondering whether shadowy elements in the nation's police forces loyal to President Hosni Mubarak are behind the violence in an attempt to justify a harsh crackdown in the name of security.
According to some analysts, such a move is a page right out of the dictator's handbook, a classic maneuver employed by tyrants since the time of Rome.
As dusk settled on Cairo, civilians armed with sticks, golf clubs, kitchen knives and various makeshift weapons took to the streets again Sunday night to protect their families and homes from widespread looting and lawlessness that have plagued parts of the bustling metropolis since police left their posts following massive anti-government protests.
In the upscale central Cairo neighborhood of Zamalek, large groups of young and old men, along with some women, set up roadblocks, checked and searched incoming cars and patrolled the streets. Residents on motorcycles roamed the island neighborhood into the early hours of Monday to look for suspicious activity and to check on the neighborhood watch groups scattered around the area.
"I live in this building here," 25-year-old software engineer Mostafa said, pointing to a tall building behind him. "This is my second night out in the streets. My family is here and I need to protect them. The situation is unknown and we don't know what will happen next."
January 31, 2011 | 4:36 am
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed two new members to his Cabinet after asking his government to resign on Saturday, Arab-language television stations reported Monday.
He appointed a former director of prisons, Gen. Mohammad Wagdi, as the new interior minister and Jawdat Mult as finance minister in a Cabinet reshuffle meant to deflect blame for Egypt's troubles, calm angry protesters and possibly prepare for a crackdown.
Wagdy replaces Habib Adly as chief of the hated and dreaded Interior Ministry, which oversees the police as well as the regime's notorious plainclothes henchmen.
He had already appointed his intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as his first-ever vice president, and former air force commander Ahmed Shafik as the new prime minister.
Mubarak seems to be surrounding himself with hard-line security officials, possibly to protect himself from a military coup but more likely to lay the groundwork to use force to crush the protests, which appear to be gathering momentum and threaten Mubarak's 30-year-rule.
Photo: An Egyptian soldier in Cairo's Tahrir Square prepares to shoot into the air Monday to disperse angry protesters who attacked a civilian, thinking he was a plainclothes policeman. The biggest anti-government protests in three decades are aimed at toppling President Hosni Mubarak's regime. Credit: KHALED DESOUKI /AFP/Getty Images
One of the Arab world's classic heartthrobs has lent his support to the popular protest movement sweeping Egypt.
Omar Sharif, the Egyptian icon best known to Americans for his roles in "Lawrence of Arabia," "Doctor Zhivago" and "Funny Girl," reportedly told France Inter radio Monday that President Hosni Mubarak should step down.
Protests in Egypt entered their seventh day Monday as the government intensified its media crackdown. At least 100 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since the protests began.
January 31, 2011 | 2:23 am
The unrest may be taking place thousands of miles away, but Chinese Internet censors felt it close enough to disable searches for "Egypt" in its Twitter-like services.
The blocking underscores Beijing’s continued concern over the Internet and its potential to access anti-government information and organize opposition to China’s ruling Communist Party.
Protests have swept across cities in Egypt with the aim of ousting President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian government has since suspended Internet and cellphone service in the country.
China’s 457 million Internet users have been embracing microblogs, which act like Twitter by allowing people to write short posts and provide links instantaneously. Twitter is banned in China and accessible only through special software.
The number of micoblog users is believed to have more than tripled to 100 million last year and has attracted film stars and famous entrepreneurs. China’s leading Internet portals, such as Sohu.com and Sina.com, have been offering the service, which had been thought of as an example of growing free expression in an otherwise tightly controlled corner of China.
Last summer, the services were mysteriously shut down
in what was believed to be a warning to the web portals to scrub their sites of politically sensitive topics. At the time, searches for posts about protests in southern China over the demise of Cantonese were disabled.
Chinese media coverage of the Egyptian crisis has been mostly downplayed, with little mention of the underlying causes for the revolt. In international sections, newspapers carried nearly identical reports provided by the state-controlled New China News Agency, a common practice for politically sensitive issues.
Coverage, both online and in print, focused on the economic repercussions of the situation in Egypt, with the Egyptian pound falling against the dollar on Friday. No mention was made of Egypt’s rising prices or official corruption -- problems with which many Chinese are all too familiar.
Searches on Sina.com for "Egypt" returned a message saying, "According to relevant laws, statues and policies, the search results cannot be displayed." A microblogging site operated by Tencent showed no results.
--David Pierson in Beijing
Photo: People surf the Internet at a Beijing Internet cafe. Credit: Diego Azubel / European Pressphoto Agency
As a mist-shrouded dawn broke over Cairo's Tahrir Square, it wasn't so much that protesters awoke to a new day: Most never went to sleep.
Hundreds of people spent all night in the plaza, worried that if they left, the military might move to block access for what has become the epicenter of demonstrations against the government of President Hosni Mubarak.
As Day Seven of Egypt's civil unrest got going, noisy protesters alternated among speeches, prayers and anti-government chants. To keep warm, crowds huddled around small camp fires and shared plastic cups of tea.
Speakers with megaphones and voices hoarse from shouting took turns keeping the crowds awake and energized. Many said it was important to stay loud and boisterous to counter reports on state-run media that everyone had gone home and the square was empty.
By morning, some wandered home, bleary-eyed, just as others came to replace them. In a grassy patch in the middle of the plaza, several protesters curled up in blankets and tried to get some sleep.
Relations with the military remained good, but demonstrators whistled and waved defiantly at helicopters that flew overhead periodically and rushed to stand in front of any tanks that attempted to reposition from the square’s perimeter into the plaza itself.
Protesters said momentum was on their side.
"We will stay until the entire world hears us," said Iman Zaki, who has said he has been practically living on the streets since last week’s protests began. "We can sleep when it’s over."
--Edmund Sanders in Cairo
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