The Egyptian protests turned violent for the first time as thousands of pro- and anti-government protesters took to the streets in Cairo again on Wednesday, ignoring the Egyptian army’s call for demonstrators to disperse after President Hosni Mubarak spoke to the Egyptian people late Tuesday night, saying he will not seek re-election in September but will stay on as president until then. Unappeased by Mubarak’s announcement, anti-government demonstrators answered by calling for the president to step down immediately.
Meanwhile, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for nearly 32 years, told Yemen’s parliament Wednesday he will not seek another term in office or hand power to his son in reaction to protests and simmering tensions in the small country. And in Jordan, King Abdullah II dismissed his prime minister and cabinet on Tuesday, ordering a new premier to carry out speedy political reforms.
Stones fly through the air as pro- and anti-government activists in Cairo, Egypt, turn violent Wednesday.
Moreover, in Syria, opposition groups are calling for mass protests Friday and Saturday in Damascus and elsewhere to demand an end to corruption, the “state of emergency in Syria,” and restrictions on the freedom of speech, among other issues.
Israel and the U.S. are on high alert, as the most organized groups looking to take advantage of the situation are the anti-Western, anti-Israeli Islamist organizations. On Monday, Israel allowed Egypt to move 800 troops into the Sinai to keep the peace – a technical violation of the 1979 peace accord between Israel and Egypt. And on Tuesday former Labor Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh suggested that Israel retake the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza-Egyptian border out of fear that Hamas will take advantage of the situation in Egypt.
The push for reform currently spreading throughout the Middle East constitutes a transformational event. Its impact will likely be felt for generations to come.