CAIRO – Egyptian riot police fired tear gas and live ammunition overnight to disperse thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and a security official said Monday that at least 185 demonstrators were arrested over allegations of attacking police and vandalism.
The rally in Cairo followed calls on Facebook for Arabs to march on Israel on Sunday in support of the Palestinians, who were holding annual ceremonies marking the "nakba," or "catastrophe" — the term Palestinians use to describe their defeat and displacement in the war surrounding Israel's 1948 founding.
The protesters set fire to an Israeli flag, chanted anti-Israeli slogans and called for the expulsion of Israel's ambassador and the closure of the embassy.
Egypt's Health Ministry said at least 353 people were hurt outside the embassy, most of them from breathing tear gas. Some protesters had bullet wounds and one was in critical condition, a security official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Eighteen members of the security forces were injured by thrown rocks.
A youth organization that played a key role in the uprising that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on its Facebook page that the protest in front of the embassy was "civilized," and questioned the riot police's use of force in dealing with the demonstrators.
A witness, who wouldn't give his name out of fear of reprisals, claimed the police used unjustified force.
Egypt's state-run news agency, MENA, said the protesters managed to push aside barricades placed around the embassy building and attempted to storm the embassy itself to tear down the Israeli flag, which prompted the police action.
Security forces had used trucks and barricades to close off at least three main roads leading to the embassy.