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Arabs Protest in Support of Palestinians


Thousands of people demonstrated in Egypt and other Arab countries in support of the Palestinians Sunday. In Jordan, the foreign minister summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest Israel's military operations in the West Bank. Egyptian political analysts are saying that unless the anger of people throughout the Arab world is adequately addressed, Arab governments may find themselves facing anger from their own people.

The political ramifications of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to analysts in Egypt, have the potential to threaten the regimes of states throughout the Arab world.

Tens-of-thousands of angry protesters have been hitting the streets in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Fahmy Howeidi is a political analyst for Egypt's government-run al Ahram newspaper. He says he has never seen anger on Egyptian streets reach the levels he has witnessed since Israeli troops stormed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters Friday. The Israeli action was in response to a series of deadly sucide bombings and shooting attacks against Israelis.

Mr. Howeidi says the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must respond. "Things like that, our people cannot accept," he said. "And they won't, and they expect their government to reflect their anger. Otherwise it will be isolated from the people."

Abdullah el Ashaal is an expert on Arab affairs who lectures at several universities in Cairo. He says many protesters want nothing less than Arab military intervention in Israel. Mr. el Ashaal, like other analysts, said this will not happen. But unless the governments take action to address growing anger among their populations, Mr. el Ashaal says, the future of Arab governments will be seriously threatened. "I am sure that something dangerous is going to take place in the area," he predicted. "The pressure of the streets is going to do something against the governments. In this case, either the government is going to respond and cooperate, or the government is going to be washed out in the face of these pressures."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Israel's actions against Palestinians amounted to a declaration of war, in the aftermath of Thursday's Arab League summit endorsing a peace proposal.

Egyptian President Mubarak spoke with President Bush by telephone Saturday and urged the U.S. leader to intervene to end the Israeli siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah.

Taha Abdul Alim is the deputy director of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. He says anger leads to extremism and consequently, he says, those who advocate peaceful solutions may be at risk. "I do think, nobody is safe now, even we who are classified for peace and those who are not accepting terrorist operations as a way to end occupation," he warned. "Everybody who is for peace now, in the Arab world, is accused that you are silent while Israel is doing that or this."

The Israeli government has said it has no intention of harming Yasser Arafat. But should that occur, all three analysts said, the entire Arab world could be thrown into a state of complete uncertainty, even the governments that have been speaking out against Israel's latest military operations.

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