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Hundreds of Thousands Will Occupy Cairo After Biggest Protest In Recent Egypt History [Updating Live]

Staff Reporters |
January 31, 2011 | 7:07 p.m. PST

 Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera



UPDATE 9:20 A.M. 2/01/2011 PST: Curfew has fallen over Cairo Wednesday night but hundreds of thousands of protesters have vowed to camp out in the streets overnight. Protesters met their goal of producing the largest demonstration in recent Egyptan history.  Mubarak still clinging to power.

UPDATE 6:04 a.m. 2/01/2011 PST: The U.S. State Department has ordered the mandatory evacuation of non-essential US government personnel and dependents from Egypt.

UPDATE 5:00 a.m. 2/01/2011 PST: The crowd continues to grow in Tahrir Square as various eyewitnesses are reporting the crowds are shoulder-to-shoulder. Crowd estimates vary between news outlets; the BBC is estimating about 100,000 people have gathered, while Al Jazeera says the protesters reached their goal of 1 million.

UPDATE 2:55 a.m. 2/01/2011 PST: United Nations Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay released a statement praising Egyptian protestors for their peaceful demonstrations Tuesday. Pillay said she has received unconfirmed reports of up to 300 deaths due to the unrest in Egypt.

UPDATE 2:00 a.m. 2/01/2011 PST: Reports estimate the crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the tens of thousands. Eyewitnesses say the military has cordoned off parts of the square, so that protestors must come in through makeshift security checkpoints. The military has also reiterated they will not fire on peaceful protestors that participate in today's demonstrations.

UPDATE 12:30 a.m 2/01/2011 PST: Fifty Egyptian human rights groups call on government to avoid bloodshed. Google and Twitter have teamed up to create a way for Egyptians to phone into Twitter to skirt web blockage.

UPDATE 12:10 a.m. 2/01/2011 PST: Al Jazeera reports that "throngs" are coverging in Cairo Tuesday morning and that tension is mounting. Protesters plan to march on the Presidential Palace and some say they plan to storm in it. Massive protest also materializing in the city of Alexandria.

UPDATE 11:08 p.m. PST: Eyewitnesses say that miliary and police presence in very heavy and and are passively barricading main thoroughfares. Unconfirmed reports that government will impose 24 hour cyrfew on Thursday.  Al Jazeera correspondents say spirits were very, very high overnight among those camped in Liberation Square.

UPDATE 10:50 p.m. PST: Curfew has lifted and protesters moving into the street and starting to fill Liberation Square. Last Egyptian Internet provider has been closed. Cell phone service going down. Al Jazeera reports a mood of "jubilation."

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The week-long popular uprising in Egypt seems to be hurtling toward a dramatic climax as the nation braces for what could be a decisive "mega protest" of millions Tuesday aimed at pushing President Hosni Mubarak out of power. The protesters have declared the nation to be in an indefinitely prolonged strike.

Events are unfoldiing at breakneck pace. Cairo's Liberation Square was on Monday the scene of the largest gatherings yet. Military and police are deployed in massive detachments but the former has said it will not fire on demonstrators. Mubarak's new vice-president has offered to negotiate with the opposition but it's not certain if any such talks will take place or if they will slow down the planned general uprising set for Tuesday.

Al Jazeera has a comprehensive report:

Protest organisers have announced an indefinite general strike and called for a "march of a million" in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday, the eighth day of an uprising that has claimed at least 125 lives in clashes between demonstrators and police.

Another million-strong march was planned in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, as national train services were cancelled in an apparent bid to stymie protests.

The new protests will come as the hated police have returned to the street.

But while the police's posture to be adopted in the face of the strike and marches remains unknown, the Egyptian army stated clearly on Monday that it would not stop them.

Faced with the prospect of massive numbers trying to converge on the capital, Egyptian authorities stopped all train traffic with immediate effect on Monday afternoon.

And state-owned national carrier EgyptAir said it was cancelling all domestic and international flights from 3 pm (1300 GMT) to 8 am (0600 GMT) until further notice, coinciding with a curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

Army promise

In a statement on Monday the army said "freedom of expression" was guaranteed to all citizens using peaceful means.

"To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people," stress that "they have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people," the statement.

It was the first such explicit confirmation by the army that it would not fire at demonstrators who have taken to the streets of Egypt and comes a day before Tuesday's "march of millions".

"The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people,

"Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands and are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and the citizens, affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody." the army statement said.

It urged people not to resort to acts of sabotage that violate security and destroy public and private property. It warned that it would not allow outlaws to loot, attack and "terrorise citizens".

Protesters have called for a massive demonstration and a rolling general strike on Tuesday.

The so-called April 6 Movement said it plans to have more than one million people on the streets of the capital Cairo.

The call came as Mubarak swore in a new cabinet in an attempt to defuse ongoing demonstrations across the country.

Meanwhile, the Mubarak government is scrambling to defuse the coming confrontation.  Newly named Vice President Omar Suleiman appreared on state TV Monday evening and offered to sit down and talk with the opposition -- a call that may go unheeded. The Washington Post:

Suleiman offered no details about the scope or timing of any talks. In an olive branch of its own, the military promised to guarantee "freedom of expression'' during a march planned for Tuesday, saying it recognizes "the legitimacy of the people's demands."

Opposition leaders, including Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and democracy advocate, have signaled that they are ready for such a dialogue. Demonstrators, however, say that the opposition leaders do not represent them, and that they will be satisfied only with Mubarak's ouster.

The movement that rose up seemingly out of nowhere last week to pose the greatest challenge yet to the 82-year-old president has no name, no symbols and no formal infrastructure. Although some students and others are involved in organizing its direction, they deny being its leaders.

Protesters say the absence of a specific platform or a single dynamic figure has been critical to their success, allowing them to tap into Egyptians' widespread contempt for Mubarak without allowing the movement to become riven by factions.

Tensions in the region were also heightened by an announcement that on Saturday protesters will challenge the dictatorship of neighboring Syria.

See AL Jazeera's slideshow of the latest events in Egypt below.



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