Bloodshed, teargas and plumes of acrid black smoke, seemingly never far from the streets of Cairo these days, returned this weekend as police fought with supporters of Egypt's ousted Islamist President, Mohamed Morsi. Around 50 people are reported to have died in the clashes, which ran for hours on the 40th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli War.
This Sunday's protests were part of the weekly and sometimes daily marches that have been taking place since Morsi was deposed by the Egyptian military on July 3rd. The marches have gradually been intensifying since hundreds of his supporters were massacred at Cairo's Rabaa mosque on August 14th, expanding to include growing numbers of young people and non-Islamist protesters. This latest march was organised with a familiar objective in mind – to demand the end to military rule – and it met with a familiarly appalling response. Its destination – Tahrir Square – has been a no-go zone for Islamists in the days following the coup and the country's security forces weren't keen on the idea of relinquishing their turf.
I went to Moahndesin district in Cairo in the afternoon, where the much anticipated protests were scheduled to leave El Mahroosa mosque after noon prayers. I've been following these marches for the past month but Sunday's seemed like the largest so far. It was led by hundreds of yellow-clad ultras, who banged drums and bellowed loud chants as the crowd made its way along the normal route. When the time came to break off and mark this special occasion with a visit to Tahrir, the anxiety ratcheted up a few gears.
Predictably, members of the police and security forces were determined not to let their opponents reach Tahrir. As military supporters gathered in the square to celebrate the crossing of the Suez canal by the Egyptian army 40 years ago, anti-coup protesters were stopped by police cordons near Dokki station, about 300m away.
It wasn't long before these forces began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters. Hours of clashes ensued, with protesters throwing rockets and fireworks while the attacks intensified from the other side, leaving, at the last count, at least 51 dead. As well as those who were killed and others left nursing serious injuries at Ibn Sina hospital, the police are said to have arrested around 400, including journalists.
A few hours later, a final push against protesters succeeded in clearing the rally, which retreated away from the scene under heavy gunfire and teargas. Nevertheless, the regime's opponents say they will not be deterred from their mission and have vowed to return to Tahrir this coming Friday.
Follow Mosa'ab on Twitter: @mosaaberizing
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