Clashes erupt at al-Azhar mosque

Egyptians protest against Israeli move to carry out al-Aqsa compound "renovation".

    Young men were chased away from the Cairo mosque and pushed into surrounding narrow alleys

    "We want to pray. God is great! You are preventing us from our religious duty!" the mass chanted angrily while pushing their way towards the mosque entrance.
    'A war zone'
    After being prohibited from entering the mosque to participate in Friday prayers, the situation grew increasingly tense between security forces and the demonstrators.
    Many young men were chased away from the mosque and pushed into the surrounding narrow alleys.
    The general population was also forbidden from entering the area as state security blocked off all access roads leading up to al-Azhar and Hussein mosques.
    "This looks and feels like a war zone", a young woman in the street said while gesticulating at the dozens of police vehicles that formed a blockade around al-Azhar area.
    Followed by plainclothes police, the crowd marched down the tight alley roads of al-Azhar chanting "the Jews are preventing us from praying" and "God is great".
    Curious onlookers from nearby shops gathered in windows and climbed onto cars and buildings to get a glimpse of the rally. Some decided to join the protest march and added their voices to the chanting.
    Clashes erupt
    At a small square a few streets away from al-Azhar mosque, security officers intimidated the crowd of protesters, now reduced to about 50 people, and asked them to leave.
    This resulted in violent fights between police and demonstrators. Witnesses said at least two arrests were made and several journalists witnessed police officers chasing a small group of protesters into an alley and beating them with metal batons.
    The few journalists present at the demonstration were instructed by security forces to leave immediately and not take photos of the clashes.
    The ones who did not abide by the rules, including a photographer from the the Al-Masry Al Youm daily, were threatened by security forces. Sally, 23, told "The police hate the cameras because they are scared that photos depicting them beating activists will end up on the blogs that everyone reads."
    Police officers at the scene refused to comment and motioned for journalists to leave the area.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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