Arabs celebrate 'Pharaoh's' fall


Egyptian women celebrate the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square (AP)

Celebrations have erupted across the Middle East after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egypt’s president.

From Beirut to Gaza, people rushed into the streets, handing out sweets, setting off fireworks and shooting in the air.

Even in Israel, which had watched the Egyptian protesters’ uprising against Mr Mubarak with concern, a former Cabinet minister said Mr Mubarak did the right thing.

“The street won. There was nothing that could be done. It’s good that he did what he did,” former defence minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who knew Mr Mubarak well, told Israel TV’s Channel 10.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and there are fears the 1979 accord could now be challenged.

Moments after Egypt’s Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement of Mr Mubarak’s resignation, fireworks lit up the sky over Beirut. Celebratory gunfire rang out in the Shiite-dominated areas in south Lebanon and in southern Beirut.

On Al-Manar TV, the station run by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah faction, Egyptian anchor Amr Nassef, who was once imprisoned in Egypt for alleged ties to Islamists, cried emotionally on the air and said: “Allahu Akbar (God is great), the Pharaoh is dead. Am I dreaming? I’m afraid to be dreaming.”

In Tunisia, where a successful uprising expelled a long-time leader only weeks earlier, cries of joy and the thundering honking of horns greeted the announcement.

In the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamic militant Hamas, thousands rushed into the streets in jubilation as gunmen fired in the air and women handed out sweets. Egypt, along with Israel, had enforced a border blockade on Gaza after the territory was seized by Hamas in 2007. There were some expectations that under a new Egyptian regime, the blockade would be eased.

“This is a victory for the will of the people and a turning point in the future of the region,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman.

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