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Egypt protests: An endgame seems to be approaching, but whose?

Egypt demonstrators calling for the immediate ouster of Hosni Mubarak held their ground in Tahrir Square today ahead of calls for more mass protests tomorrow.

By Staff writer / February 3, 2011

The clash between pro- and anti- Mubarak supporters escalated in Cairo's Tehrir Square on Feb. 2.

Ann Hermes/Staff

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Cairo

Egypt protesters held their ground in Cairo's Tahrir Square today against pro-regime thugs as foreign journalists and activists were attacked, beaten, and arrested in what appears to be the prelude to a harsh crackdown.

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Hossam Hamalawy, an Egyptian journalist and democracy activist in Tahrir, says the mood in the square is buoyant and generally safe, with protesters organizing to protect themselves from pro-regime militias that most Egyptian activists and outside observers believe are being organized by members of the current political order.

But around the square it was a different story.

Journalists and activists trying to get in were beaten by thugs on multiple occasions. The military went from room to room in the Ramses Hilton (which overlooks the square), looking for foreign journalists and seizing camera equipment. The offices of the Nadeem Center for Human Rights and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center – two of the country's most prominent human rights organizations – were raided by the police. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had researchers detained.

The BBC had camera equipment taken. CNN reported that a mob attacked a car of its reporters trying to film near Tahrir. The Washington Post and New York Times reported the detention of journalists with their organizations. An Al Jazeera reporter was beaten in Alexandria. A reporter from this paper decided to stay home after her driver told her he'd been visited by the military, who told him to call them immediately if they decided to go out and do some reporting.

What's happening with foreign reporters is a side show compared to the conditions that Egyptians are grappling with. Food prices are soaring in Cairo and other cities, the banks remain closed, and thousands of demonstrators have been hurt in the events of the past week. The situation is now finely pitched for tomorrow, when demonstrators have vowed to hold another mass rally pushing for Mubarak to stand down.

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