January 14, 2009 / 2:13 PM / 10 years ago

Egypt police hold 16 Islamists after Gaza protests

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police detained 16 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday, Brotherhood and security officials said, in the latest round-up after rallies against Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The detentions in the Nile Delta town of Damanhur bring to more than 100 the number of Islamists rounded up this week after protests around the country against the Israel’s attacks on the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza, now in its 19th day.

Police picked up the men from the streets on suspicion of taking part in an illegal protest, security and Brotherhood officials said.

The Brotherhood is the strongest opposition group in the country and has historical and ideological ties with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

The government says the Brotherhood is an illegal organisation but allows it to operate openly, within limits. The Brotherhood says more than 700 of its members are in detention.

Egyptian authorities have been eager to suppress almost daily protests against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, in which protesters often condemn the government for what they see as its complicity in the blockade of the coastal strip.

Protesters have also criticised the Egyptian government for refusing to open the border with Gaza for normal traffic, rather than limited humanitarian operations.

The Nile Delta and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria have seen Egypt’s largest protests against the Israeli offensive, which has killed nearly 1,000 Palestinians.

Writing by Will Rasmussen; Editing by Louise Ireland

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