Arab euphoria over Mubarak’s departure

A WAVE of euphoria swept Arab cities as news spread of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, with jubilant crowds taking to the streets from Gaza to Beirut in celebration.

Across the Middle East and north Africa, loudspeakers on mosques called on citizens to rejoice in their own cities, hours after Mr Mubarak, crushed by a popular uprising, agreed to hand over power to the army.

In Lebanon, where the Cairo protests have been reminiscent of mass anti-Syrian demonstrations in 2005, convoys bearing Egyptian flags blared their horns as fireworks went off across the country.

Ecstatic Beirutis popped open champagne in the streets, kissing Egyptian flags to the sound of celebratory gunfire.

Thousands also turned out in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburb of Beirut at the calling of the Iranian-backed militant group – which has long had strained ties with Mr Mubarak – to celebrate Egypt’s “historic victory.”

Islamist group Hamas hailed 82-year-old Mr Mubarak’s resignation as Palestinians turned out en masse across the Gaza strip, joyfully shooting in the air and honking their car horns.

Balaclava-clad members of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, also rallied across the strip.

And while the rival West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has yet to comment on Mr Mubarak’s fall, hundreds of Palestinians of all ages descended on the centre of Ramallah, waving flags and cheering the Egyptian people.

“What happened in Egypt is not only for the Egyptian people, it is for all Arabs,” activist Saed Karazon said in Ramallah. “The whole Arab world is going to change.”

In Tunisia, the country that inspired Egypt with protests that forced president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali out last month, a carnivalesque atmosphere took hold as throngs crowded the streets, dancing and ululating in joy.

“It’s wonderful! Two dictators have fallen in less than a month,” said 23-year-old student Nourredine in an impromptu street party on Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, one of the main sites for the protests which toppled Ben Ali.

A clamour rose in Tunis calling on neighbouring Algerians to topple their country’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as the crowd chanted: “One, two, three, viva l’Algerie!”

Thousands others took to the streets of Yemen’s capital Sanaa to celebrate Mr Mubarak’s resignation, waving Egyptian flags and hoisting banners congratulating the “Arab nation.”

“Yesterday Tunisia, today Egypt, and tomorrow Yemenis will break their chains,” some demonstrators chanted.

But while a crowd gathered outside the seat of the Yemeni government, protesters were blocked from approaching the Egyptian embassy by a large police force.

In Jordan, which has witnessed budding protests against the monarchy, more than 3,000 Islamists, leftists and Egyptians gathered outside Cairo’s embassy, exchanging sweets and flowers and shooting fireworks into the night sky.

“Long live Egypt, goodbye Mubarak. The people have toppled the regime. Who is next?” they chanted, waving Jordanian and Egyptian flags.

And in the Qatari capital of Doha, home of satellite channel al-Jazeera which gave extensive coverage to the protests despite an attempted blackout by Mubarak, thousands turned out to join the Egyptians in their victory.

Carrying Egyptian flags and portraits of late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who died in 1970, the crowds sang Egypt’s national anthem in unison and chanting “Long live Egypt” and “Egypt is free, the thieves are gone.”

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