Egyptians hold mass protests against Saudi islands deal
In Cairo, protesters flooded the streets of the neighbourhood of Mohandessin on Firday, before police fired tear gas and made arrests to disperse the crowd which had rallied against the controversial deal.
A large crowd also gathered outside the Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo, calling on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to step down.
In several Delta provinces, protesters also marched chanting: "What a disgrace, they sold the islands for two billion".
Many carried signs reading, "Land is Honour" and denouncing the surrender of the islands.
Others chanted, "People want to down the regime" and "Down with the military rule!"
|In Pictures: Egyptians protest against Saudi island deal|
Members of the banned April 6 Youth Movement held a demonstration on Thursday evening on the 6th October Bridge, close to Tahrir Square, before the planned mass protests, which kicked off after Friday prayers.
"Get rid of your political affiliations when you go down tomorrow. You are an Egyptian refusing the sale of your land," the April 6 Movement said on Twitter.
The blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood has also backed the calls for protests.
"We call on all Egyptians to join mass demonstrations to protest the wrongful decision to cede Egyptian territories, starting Friday," the Islamic moment said in a statement.
"We strongly reject the traitor Sisi and his gang of thieves selling off of the national territory of the Arab Republic of Egypt," it added.
|We strongly reject the traitor Sisi and his gang of thieves selling off of the national territory of the Arab Republic of Egypt|
Police ramped up security measures in central Cairo on Friday in anticipation of the protests, deploying armoured vehicles and troops to the iconic Tahrir square, which was the epicentre of the 2011 uprising the ousted longtime former president Hosni Mubarak.
The metro station in the square was also closed by authorities.
Police released a statement on Thursday, warning people to stay at home and reject calls by the Muslim Brotherhood to "incite chaos and pit citizens and security forces against each other".
|Police fired tear gas and made arrests to disperse the large crowds [Twitter]|
"The Interior Ministry calls on citizens not to heed to such calls, and warns against any attempts to deviate from legitimacy. The ministry will take the necessary legal measures to maintain security," the statement read.
Egypt handed over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in a deal announced last week. The move has been criticised by many as being illegal.
Public anger towards the deal has been so large that even several pro-government talk show hosts have condemned it.
The surprise move to give the uninhabited islands to Saudi Arabia has prompted rare criticism of Sisi by Egyptians who see the transfer as an affront to national pride.
An Egyptian official toldThe New Arab that President Sisi consulted Mubarak before making the deal.
"Sisi sent a high-ranking official to the ousted president to get his opinion on the transfer, while he was in office he recognised that Saudi had leased them to Egypt in 1950," the unnamed source said.
"Mubarak advised him not to hand over the islands because the current climate was not conducive for such a decision," he added.