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Sisi performs balancing act in wake of Trump's Jerusalem move

Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been careful to strike a delicate balance between allowing public condemnation of Trump's decision and not letting protests get out of hand.
A demonstrator holds up a sign at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's Jerusalem declaration, that reads "From the journalists to Sisi: Jerusalem is Arab" in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo, Egypt December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany - RC1FEABD05A0
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A protest rally planned by Egyptian opposition groups and members of liberal political parties outside the Arab League Headquarters in downtown Cairo on Dec. 9 was called off after the Interior Ministry refused to issue the necessary security permits for the demonstration to be held. The rally, meant to denounce US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, had been timed to coincide with an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers held to coordinate a unified response to Trump’s move. The foreign ministers later released a statement calling on the United States to reverse its decision, which they described as “a provocation to Muslims and Christians in the region” and “a dangerous violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions.”

A day earlier, hundreds of Egyptians had demonstrated at Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque after weekly Friday prayers, chanting anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans and raising placards reaffirming Jerusalem's Arab and Islamic identity. Dozens of worshippers also protested at Al-Qaed Ibrahim mosque in central Alexandria after Friday prayers, chanting "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine" and burning an Israeli flag. The protests, staged amid a heavy police presence, came on the heels of an earlier demonstration staged outside the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo on Dec. 7, at which dozens of protesters set fire to Israeli flags. Ten people arrested by security forces at the protest site were released on bail three days later, but prosecutors ordered the detention of two journalists, Ahmed Abdel Aziz and Hossam El Suweify (who were among the protesters), for 15 days pending investigation on charges of “participating in an illegal protest” and “inciting hatred against the regime.” An anti-protest law issued in November 2013, which has been slammed by rights groups as “a grave threat to freedom of assembly,” bans demonstrations held without prior approval from the police and gives security forces free rein to use excessive force against protesters.

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