Thousands gather in Egypt’s Tahrir Square

Activists have called on Egyptians to demonstrate against sectarianism [Adam Makary]

Thousands of people have gathered in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, rallying for different causes.

Activists had called for a mass show of unity on Friday, a week after 15 people were killed in sectarian violence in the country.

But many of those gathered in the square were there to show their support for Palestinian unity, ahead of “Nakba day”, marking the creation of the state of Israel and displacement of thousands of Palestinians.

Demonstrators also celebrated the reconciliation deal signed recently between Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions.

Meanwhile, a few hundred Copts staged a sit-in outside the state television headquarters, calling for justice over the weekend’s sectarian violence.

Footage from Tahrir Square showed people waving Palestinian flags and banners with slogans for Egyptian national unity.

Call for Gaza march

Activists have called for a march to neighbouring Gaza at the weekend, to protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

The interior ministry has urged them to cancel the march and Khaled Meshaal, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, said that for the time being, Egyptians are not “required” to march to the Gaza Strip in support of the Palestinian cause.

Sectarian clashes erupted in Cairo on Saturday after Muslims surrounded a church demanding the handover of a woman they said Christians had detained after she converted to Islam.

Another church was set on fire and in addition to those killed, scores were wounded.

The unrest prompted the military to arrest more than 200 people it said would be swiftly tried.

The young Egyptian woman who was the source of the dispute was arrested on Thursday and charged with marrying more than one husband, a judicial source said.

Abeer Talaat Fakhry, 26, was living with her Christian husband in the southern city of Assiut when she ran away from home, converted to Islam and informally married Muslim Yassin Thabet.

The violence was been blamed on Salafists, members of a hardline, puritanical Islamic movement.

Tensions have been building for the past year, as Salafists protested the alleged abduction by the Coptic Church of a priest’s wife, Camilla Shehata. The Salafists claim she converted to Islam to escape an unhappy marriage, a phenomenon they maintain is common.

Copts account for up to 10 per cent of the country’s 80 million people.

(english.aljazeera.net / 13.05.2011)

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