While Scaf, Egypt’s ruling military council, debated whether to accept the resignation of the Egyptian cabinet, intense fighting continued between protesters and security forces off Tahrir Square.
At the front line on Mohamed Mahmoud street, where an army cordon protects the interior ministry building, crowds jostled in a thick fog of tear gas. A steady stream of protesters carrying crates of rocks and bottles, heads swathed in scarves, goggles and gas masks, shoved their way to the front while others retreated, injured or exhausted.
With their faces streaked white with the diluted antacid now used against the gas, 19-year-old Mahmoud and his friend took shelter behind a wall. “They are shooting us with live ammunition in there—I saw people get shot beside me,” he said. “But we are going straight back in. This time we have to finish what we started in January.”
Just behind them, Tahrir was thronged with protesters determined to topple the country’s military rulers. To chants of “Down with military government,” vendors sold keffiyeh scarves, goggles, surgical-, dust- and rudimentary gas-masks. Men roamed the crowds with spray bottles filled with water and vinegar or antacid solution, ready to treat those hit by the periodic waves of gas billowing from the security forces’ position to the east.
Despite the celebratory atmosphere in the square itself, there was growing anger at the west. “Americans out—you are sending this gas to kill us,” shouted one masked man, holding a canister marked with a blue “Made in USA” stamp. The canisters are manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Combined Systems Inc (CSI).
While support for Islamist parties in the country as a whole remains strong, anti-Islamist sentiment among those in Tahrir was also growing. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, which is expected to perform strongly in forthcoming elections, issued a statement that: “Out of our commitment not to lure people to more bloody confrontations, we… declare that we will not participate in any protests or demonstrations that may lead to more confrontations and tensions.”
The Brotherhood has been heavily criticised for its failure to participate in the protests that snowballed after Friday’s Brotherhood- and Salafi-dominated demonstration in Tahrir Square. “The Brotherhood has left us to die in the streets, and we won’t forget that,” said one protester fighting on…