Return to Transcripts main page


Crisis in Egypt; Deadly Clashes in Cairo

Aired February 2, 2011 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I just want to remind our viewers, we're now at the top of the hour at the 11:00 hour in the United States. And to those watching in the United States and around the world, we are bringing you live coverage of the situation here in Cairo.

If you're just joining us, again we're kind of joining you in a very odd way. The security situation when we began about an hour ago had suddenly changed and we were concerned about the safety in this neighborhood. We were advised to turn off all the lights where we are and to get down on the floor and be away from the windows.

It seems as if the -- the situation has stabilized in this area, but just for precaution's sake, we're just going to continue for this next hour as we have been broadcasting.

I'm joined by Hala Gorani and Ben Wedeman. We have correspondents still fanned out throw the region. Ivan Watson is in Tahrir Square, in Liberation Square. Arwa Damon is also joining us from that area. And John King continues to be with us from Washington and Dr. Fouad Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

We're trying to bring you as many different perspectives as possible. We have been witnessing fire over the course of these early morning hours and it is now 6:00 a.m. here in Cairo. One hour until the curfew lifts and there is no sign, no indication that the violence will stop any time soon.

Pro-Mubarak forces will be able to regroup, replenish their supplies, their weaponry, and -- and their numbers if the Egyptian military chooses to allow them to move toward the Square. We have -- do you have any sense, Ben, of what -- what may happen in the hours ahead?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not at all clear, Anderson. Because this -- this whole situation is -- is completely new to everybody.

Let's not forget that this only began on the 25th of January, and we've seen this country just go from white to black in so much -- in so little time, that it's really difficult to understand where this is going.

COOPER: We just got a report from al-Arabiya which is reporting four killed in new clashes in the Square. I assume they're talking by the Egyptian Museum, 13 wounded. These are -- these are new numbers that we are hearing, four injured -- newly dead, according to al-Arabiya which is citing what they say is a medical volunteer on the scene, 13 wounded.

Our Ivan Watson, who is live now in the Square, has been seeing, and in our last hour if you were listening, has been seeing newly wounded people being brought back from what is essentially the front line of this pitched battle by the Egyptian Museum. Ivan, are you still seeing the wounded? Are you seeing -- seeing what al-Arabiya has reported?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I -- I haven't seen an ambulance come through in a while. And many of the people who are circulating here are bandaged, are wearing bloody bandages and slings. And perhaps one of the strangest things is that some of them have made these makeshift helmets out of pieces of cardboard that they've tied to their heads, I guess to try, in an effort to try to protect themselves during the running street battles when they were hurling stones at each other.

It's something I had never quite seen before.

COOPER: If you're just joining us now at the top of the hour, I also want to read you a tweet from the U.S. State Department, an advisory to Americans in Cairo or in Egypt. It says, "U.S. citizens wishing to depart Egypt on U.S. government flights should proceed to airport as soon as possible after the morning end of curfew."

They are telling Americans who want to get out of Egypt to proceed to the airport as soon as possible after curfew, which is in one hour, to try to get on U.S. government flights. The U.S. government started offering flights, Hala, it was on -- on Monday that they -- the first flights were offered. They brought -- they got about 1,000 people out after the first day. The numbers dropped to about 500 the next day because of traffic problems with -- with all the demonstrators.

But clearly this is an urgent message. This is a much more direct message than we have heard.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, after the developments today, the State Department is telling U.S. citizens basically this has become a very dangerous situation. We've seen it not just in Tahrir Square, in some cases spilling out of Tahrir Square.

The big fear, of course, will it remain contained in that epicenter area or will it kind of spill over into other sections of the Egyptian capital?

And you were mentioning the military not intervening and not stepping in when there was clear danger directed against sort of ordinary people in the Square. But it's not just the fact that they're not intervening, it's the fact that the military presence itself is tiny considering the level of danger and there's thousands and thousands of people.

You have one or two tanks here, one or two tanks there. But Ben was talking about how when you have 100 protestors, you might have thousands of riot police to control them. So it is also a numbers game. COOPER: Arwa Damon, you're joining us now for the first time in this broadcast tonight. You and I were speaking earlier. You had talked to some people who were watching this -- this protests and watching the violence.

What kind of an impact do you think these images are going to have on -- on Egyptians, on ones who weren't necessarily at the Square today or who aren't on one side or the other?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, even before the violence broke out today, Egyptians that we're talking to were saying that they could hardly recognize their own capital anymore. Life had basically come to a standstill. They could hardly believe that a group of demonstrators no matter what their sides could potentially threaten the regime of President Mubarak.

Today, as I was speaking to a number of Egyptians, ironically in a social club they were there, either looking for a sense of normalcy or just to catch up with friends before they themselves headed down to the demonstration site.

But as we were talking, word was beginning to trickle in about these clashes turning even more violent. And they were shocked, horrified, and terrified. One woman was saying that she supported the demonstrators at first. Then she felt that the president's concessions were enough. But now that these protests had turned violent and she said she blames the president for this. Now that the protests have turned violent she was standing staunchly with the anti- government demonstrators.

Another woman I spoke to said something very interesting. She has a 19-year-old son. And she said, you know what? To be honest, this is our fault. This is my generation's fault. We gave up good governance and accepted corruption in the name of stability. And now it is my son, his generation, all the youth that have been dying out there that are paying the price for my generation's decision to stay silent.

COOPER: I want to show you some of the most dramatic developments that we have seen over the last -- frankly I'm not sure how many hours it is that this has been going on for, certainly more than 12 that we have been reporting on it. But just some of what we have witnessed today throughout the day, sort of a compilation.

Take a look.


FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We found something here that we haven't seen a lot of before. This is a pro- Mubarak demonstration, which is also happening in downtown Cairo.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: I mean we are seeing something in the streets of Cairo that we haven't necessarily seen over the past week of protests. This time we are seeing clashes.

COOPER: The Egyptian museum is behind me. That is now kind of ground zero for the confrontation between the pro-Mubarak forces and the anti-Mubarak forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never really seen anything like it. There are hundreds of people below me in the Square engaging in a vicious street battle right now throwing rocks at each other.

COOPER: -- they have knives, there are clubs, there's a big roar from the crowd. Look at this, this is really bad. This is going to get ugly.

The flashpoint right now is right in front of the Egyptian museum. And that's where I was just about 15 minutes ago. We were trying to make our way -- to a kind of a no-man's-land between the two groups. We never got that far.

I've been hit now like ten times.

We were set upon by pro Mubarak supporters, punching us in the head, attacking my producer, MaryAnne Fox. And my cameraman, as well, trying to grab his camera, trying to break his camera. We realized the situation was getting very bad very quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is crazy, man. This is crazy man.

GORANI: Out of nowhere it seems, demonstrators on camelback and horseback started charging in. At that point, there was a rush of people in the other direction. I got caught in it.

Ok. I'm a little bit shaken, because I was got shoved out of the way there. This is just a completely surreal experience.

WEDEMAN: -- Square that what is a mosque that a few days ago was turned into a makeshift field hospital for people wounded in clashes in protest and what not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hosni Mubarak that's what we do for a democracy. We will die for our freedom.

COOPER: We're seeing now just one Molotov cocktail after another being fired. So clearly someone or a group of people have brought a large amount of incendiary devices. Because up until now we've -- we've only seen occasional Molotov cocktails; this is now one after the other.

And I can tell you people in the crowd, inside the Square the anti- Mubarak protestors. I'm not seeing any Molotov cocktails being thrown back. I don't think -- I think they are trapped in -- in the Square.

WEDEMAN: And I think what we're seeing Suzanne is really sort of a government sanctioned lynch mob going after the protesters in Tahrir Square.


COOPER: Some of the most remarkable moments from a day in which it just seemed every hour it just got more horrific, what all of us were witnessing. We're going to continue our coverage. We're going to take a short break. We've got a lot of people standing by, a lot of images to show you and a lot of analysis.

We'll be right back.



GORANI: -- Ok. I'm a little bit shaken because I was just shoved out of the way there. This is just a completely surreal experience. Ok, ok, I'm not, ok, I'm being told, walk, walk, don't stay. Ok.


COOPER: Some very hairy moments for our Hala Gorani. Also Ivan Watson, who is in the Square right now, also found himself the target of -- of protestors. Take a look.


WATSON: I'm holed up in a building in the middle of Tahrir Square behind the barricades in opposition controlled territory. This is where we've been working throughout days of -- and nights of peaceful protests. I'm watching right in front of me right now four men carrying a wounded unconscious man in the direction of where -- where the medics are operating. And literally underneath the balcony I'm standing on, medics are stitching wounded people up on the sidewalk.


COOPER: A -- a lot of dramatic images that we have seen today. I'm joined in Washington by John King and -- and Fouad, Professor Fouad Ajami from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

John from -- from -- from -- and also Arwa Damon -- John, from -- from the White House tonight, how -- I mean, obviously you said they're -- they are closely watching this. How much in contact are they with Mubarak, with his vice president, with the Egyptian military?

KING: There were a number of high level contacts today. Secretary of State Clinton spoke to Vice President Suleiman. Defense Secretary Gates spoke to the Field Marshal Tantawi, the Defense Chief and Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff spoke to his counterpart in the Egyptian military, as well.

And all three of those conversations I am told were urging, number one, the military to stay away from the violence, obviously they want no violence. And Anderson, they won't say publicly much more than that.

But privately, I am told the message to the military is as you see this unfold, you need to make a choice here. And the administration is frankly troubled by the choice of the past 10 to 15 hours.

They do not see any active military role in the violence. But as Ben and Hala have been noting and you've been there on the ground the fact that the military is not -- not stopping the violence is a troubling -- it gives the administration a troubling sense that that in and of itself is a choice.

So the question is what will happen from that point forward? That is what gets so difficult. At the White House today, Robert Gibbs was asked you know how was the growing frustration here? And he made very clear that when the President said in his remarks that the transition needs to begin now, he meant now.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is imperative that the violence that we're seeing stop and that the transition that was spoken about last night begin immediately.


KING: So Anderson, immediately. The administration wanted this to start yesterday. And it did not start yesterday Washington time. You're now into a new day in Cairo, they are very, very troubled and again they think their only leverage here or their best leverage here -- I shouldn't say their only leverage -- their best leverage here is to convince the military that it does not want to be part of this, that it needs to go to President Mubarak and say, sir, you need to go and you need to go now.

But they have no evidence that that is happening and they are very troubled by what they see on the streets.

COOPER: Professor Ajami, what would be -- I know you've been very critical of this White House, so they probably wouldn't seek your advice. But what would your advice be in terms of -- of how to deal with the next 24 hours, sir.

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well Anderson, I think we're beginning to understand the limits of the Egyptian-American relationship. We've had this continuous relationship with this regime of President Mubarak, we had it with Sadat.

But remember, the Egyptians are a tough and very -- this regime is very, very xenophobic at heart -- it's hidden xenophobia. We talked to them. We have all kinds of joint military exercises between the U.S. military and the Egyptian military.

But the regime at its heart has the suspicion of the foreign world and it has this ability to depict all challenges as foreign conspiracies. And I think what has happened now is that basically Mubarak has changed the terms of engagement for everyone. He's put the protestors in Egypt on notice that if they really want him they have to fight and they have to really stake blood. And he's put the Americans on notice that if they really want to push him around, let's see what you can do.

And we are beginning to learn, we will learn very soon the limits of the influence we have over the Egyptian regime and over the Egyptian military, the limits of what we can get for $1.5 billion annually. It's not that easy for any White House. I do know, I can tell you I experienced this because I was engaged in these discussions during the Bush years. During the Bush years they tried to push Mubarak toward reform. He stiffed them. This is a game Mubarak plays to perfection.

And as I said, he has now altered the terms of engagement. We are now facing a much more violent confrontation between the regime and its people.

And what you're watching, Anderson, really I just -- it's probably just maybe -- and it's not dramatic. You are watching a fight in the Arab world between the forces of freedom and the forces of autocracy. And if the forces of autocracy prevail which is really Mubarak, God help the Arabs. Pity them because this -- this challenge which was in many ways pacifist and peaceful, if this challenge doesn't work, then we return to the only language of -- of politics in the -- in the Arab world, the language of blood.

COOPER: How can democracy triumph here then?

AJAMI: Well, I think it's a hard -- it's a hard fight. A few days ago, even like a couple of days ago when we were covering this story, there was this feeling of -- that this Egyptian revolution will be like the Jasmine revolution of Tunisia, there was -- it would be more like the Seder (ph) revolution of Lebanon some -- some five years ago in the plazas of Beirut. Lovely young women, very, very elegant young men going out and challenging the Syrian and Lebanon; it look good too.

But I think now we're facing something entirely different. And I think now the initiative really is in the hands of Hosni Mubarak. He's the one who has to make the call. And if Mubarak wants to fight this and if the military either will go with him or stay on the sideline as he lets loose his goons on young men and women and protestors in the middle (ph) of Tahrir, I think this is a very different battle.

COOPER: I remember being there in Beirut five years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago --

AJAMI: Exactly.

COOPER: -- looking at what we have seen in the last couple of days.

Let's go to Ivan Watson, who is in the Square where there is nothing elegant, there is nothing beautiful. There are wounded people, there are tired people and there are people who Ivan, you say or believe they are fighting for their lives.

WATSON: Yes, that's right. And there has been mentioned of jihad out here. There have been people who've said they are willing to -- to die here to defend this patch of territory. By the way, the -- the image you're looking at is just next to the Egyptian museum where the front line really has been over the course of the past 14 hours.

And you can see tanks there in front of that monument. Those Egyptian army tanks have been in the middle of that battle throughout the whole time and not doing anything. The soldiers were buttoned up inside. I saw them climb inside when the rocks started to fly back and forth. And they did not come out. They did not take any position aside from complete neutrality.

And it was the demonstrators and the pro regime supporters who were using those vehicles as cover, as they hurled stones at each other and basically tried to beat each other to death.

COOPER: At any point, Ivan, from -- because from my vantage point, I could see the military vehicles but I could not see soldiers on the ground, although I heard shots, I could never tell if there were soldiers on the ground firing in the air to try to keep both sides apart. Did you ever see that?

WATSON: I did not see that. And directly to the left of those tanks, you can see there, we're going to try to push out a little bit, is the entrance to the Egyptian museum and soldiers had been there. I can see them milling around. I actually see some of them walking around in their helmets and their flak jackets.

They were maintaining a perimeter there. They were keeping people from entering the Egyptian museum. And they were just yards away from these vicious clashes. And the only time I really saw them intervene at all was to fire hoses into the flames that had been made by the petrol bombs and they did that from within the perimeter of the Egyptian museum. At no point did they set foot outside, to as far as I saw, to take any role to try to keep both sides apart.

COOPER: Arwa Damon I want -- you're in the Square as well, I want to ask you that -- that same question. Did you see at any point soldiers intervening one way or the other?

DAMON: No, definitely not. And one thing that was in great contrast between today and -- and other days is that in the past, the soldiers, although they never stopped the demonstrators from going through, they would at least do a precursory pat-down, they would be checking for IDs. And then all of a sudden that has ceased to exist.

Looking over right now from my vantage point, the military is really nowhere to be seen, unless the tanks that were very close to the hotel have somehow moved underneath the overpass, they also are not visible at this point.

That clamoring, the banging that the anti-Mubarak demonstrators have been conducting throughout the night ever since they set up this makeshift barricades with the metal sheets they managed to get their hands on, it's still continuing right now as we speak. There's still a vehicle that's smoldering here.

You know, Anderson, just a few hours ago, we tried to go to one of the hospitals. And while we were there, the doctor was explaining the difficulties that he was going through, trying to get medical aid to the demonstration site. He said that for some reason ambulances if they have more than a driver, they were being stopped and turned away.

So he eventually had to hide medics, hide supplies just to get them on site to treat the wounded.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, at one point it looked like buses or trucks were brought in right in front of the Egyptian museum and put in sort of the no man's land to create barriers. Do we know, I mean, I assume that was military doing that, but I never saw who was driving or where they ended up going, because some of those vehicles ended up being turned over.

WEDEMAN: Yes, I -- I'm actually I wasn't in that position. I was more sort of really right in the middle where the two crowds met and --


COOPER: Did you ever see soldiers trying to intervene in one way or the other?

WEDEMAN: Not at all, no, not at all. I mean, what -- what we saw was initially the two crowds coming together and actually talking to one another, shaking hands, arguing, but there was no violence.

COOPER: This was early on around 1:30, 2:00.

WEDEMAN: This was, you know, briefly before the camels and the horses showed up.

COOPER: That surreal moment which I don't think any of us will forget.

We're -- we're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues all the way to the midnight hour. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing live coverage from Cairo. We're in a secure location, but for our safety we've been advised to step away from windows and turn off the lights and get down on the floor.

So that's why we're broadcasting like this if you're just joining us. I want to go to Ivan Watson, who is in -- in the Square, in Liberation Square, where he has been all day reporting nonstop and all night.

Ivan, I understand -- I can't see the images, I understand the camera has been wiped down so it actually it looks very different than the image we were showing our viewers before the break.

Just explain what -- what we're looking at.

WATSON: This -- we're looking towards the south end of the Square, which has been further away from the front lines of -- of the Egyptian museum. And there are a number of tents in that circle kind of lawn there, and you're going to see how people have been milling around back and forth. Basically throughout the night and the day basically conducting a vigil here; there are thousands of people here, activists. And messages get blared out to them over these echoing loud speakers. At one point the man on the loud speaker said this was a peaceful demonstration, but they attacked us, so we have no choice but to fight back.

COOPER: I want to show you what Ivan saw throughout the day in a piece he put together with -- with Joe Duran and producer Tommy Evans. Take a look.


WATSON: Wednesday marked the start of another raucous demonstration in Cairo. But this time these protestors were out in support of the government, in support of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. After more than a week of anti-Mubarak protests, this crowd was angry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My president Egyptian. And we want Mubarak the Egyptian man. You Obama, don't kill (ph) Mubarak.

WATSON: They lashed out at foreign journalists. Little surprise then when chaos erupted at this entrance to Tahrir Square, an area of downtown that's been occupied for days by anti-Mubarak protestors. We got caught up in the panic.

Yes, the rocks are coming. We're not going to get in there, dude. All right, what do you want to do, man? That hotel is going to be hard to get into. Ok, we're going, we're going. We're going to get trapped over there.

And then a fierce battle began. Rival factions chased each other around the parked tanks of the Egyptian army.

There's been an interesting change. Just minutes ago, fierce, fierce battles, flashing out street battles between these two camps. And now, now the stone throwing has stopped and suddenly there were hugs and the pro Mubarak people are starting to come in, in force.

The stone throwing has stopped, and they're advancing forward, mingling now with the anti-Mubarak demonstrators here in Tahrir Square.

That momentary cease-fire suddenly collapsed after this charge on horseback in the heart of a modern city. The horse riders came from the side of the regime supporters, and triggered another vicious street battle, mob violence at its worst.

The battle lines drawn in front of Cairo's landmark Egyptian museum, a constant stream of wounded combatants; men, women and children in the opposition beat a makeshift war drum. The once peaceful demonstrators started digging up stones for ammunition.

Nightfall brought sporadic gunfire. Medics treated wounded on the pavement under the street lamps. But by midnight, the opposition still controlled Cairo's bloody Tahrir Square.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Cairo. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ivan joins us live in that very same square where light is starting to break, dawn is coming up. Are they preparing -- from what you can see -- are they preparing for what they be more attacks?

WATSON: They've been preparing basically since the fighting began, Anderson. They've been digging up, as you saw in that report, digging up stones to use for ammunition. Barricading the entrances to this place and trying to keep morale up, swearing they're going to fight back.

The sound of the picks digging into the asphalt all night, it's uncanny, as well as the sound of the wounded and the prayers. I can only compare it to what perhaps a medieval siege would have sounded like around a castle.

COOPER: I actually was thinking about Roman times when the demonstrators created this shield made out of what looked like corrugated tin or steel almost like sort of failings of Roman soldiers using their shield as a barrier as they advanced in front of the Egyptian museum in front of all that building containing all that history of this remarkable country.

Ivan, I'm trying to get an answer, and I know you may not know the answer to this and if anybody else knows the answer to this, join in. But the American -- young American man who was working as a medic, who we talked to, he was able to leave the Square, I'm told that Ivan just dropped out. Do we know if the anti-Mubarak protestors, if new ones can come into the Square?

WEDEMAN: No, actually I was just to this south of the Square, as it was building up just before it went dark. And the army was quite firm. You could leave, but you could not go back. Nobody was allowed to enter the Square.

COOPER: So those who leave the Square cannot come back. So, I mean we heard some protestors, anti-Mubarak protestors talk about new anti- Mubarak protestors coming to join their comrades, but what you're saying is they would not be allowed in the Square.

WEDEMAN: No the army was out there with tanks and everybody who tried to approach it -- we lost one of our reporters in the Square, and we were trying just to retrieve him. And as much as I tried and pleaded with the army, they said no way. There's no way you can go back in.

COOPER: And your reporter --

WEDEMAN: We found him.

COOPER: Ok. Good, because I'm sure his mom may be watching, just trying to make sure.

And yet do we know if the pro Mubarak demonstrators who will no doubt want to come in the morning light, will they be allowed to regroup? WEDEMAN: Certainly they have been allowed, because I've been watching them all evening. Some groups coming, some groups going, passing right by the army. No problem whatsoever.

GORANI: And they're on the outskirts; so they've gathered on the outskirts. And on the overpass they're overlooking the Square. So reinforcing their numbers is much easier than having to go through a barrier and join protestors inside.

COOPER: I'm told we're watching an injured anti-Mubarak protestor being put into an ambulance. Ivan, what are you seeing?

WATSON: That's right. Two more ambulances have arrived and clearly wounded people being brought in. And it appears that they were brought up from one of the staircases leading down into the subway station here. We heard reports that that may be a place where people have been sheltered where, in fact, the bodies may have been stored. But I cannot confirm those reports; that was kind of rumors that we've been hearing from up here.

COOPER: So what are you expecting, Ivan? What is your plan in the next couple of hours?

WATSON: Good question. I was frankly, when the vicious, vicious street battles were going on, I really did not think that these activists could hold out against the onslaught. And I have been really stunned by how tenacious they've been. You can see in this image, there are people, a number of people with bandages on their heads walking around, and they managed to hold onto this territory which is really kind of remarkable.

And the question is, is what will the government do next? We had a period before dawn of gunfire and apparent bullet wounds, a number of wounded people who were medevac'd with these ambulances rushing in and out.

So the question is, will we see a further escalation? The Internet was turned on, on Wednesday after being shut down for days by the government. And what we saw popping up in the Egyptian Twitter sphere and in text messaging and social networking were lots of rumors that some massive assault would come before dawn this morning.

But the sun is rising over Cairo, and we have yet to see anything manifested, stuff like that, with the exception of those rounds of what almost sounded like sniper fire, that resulted in bullet wounds apparently among some of the activists.

We need to take a short break. Our coverage continues live from Cairo. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back.

You're looking at live pictures from Liberation Square as dawn is coming up, the first light of this morning. Again, no one can tell what the next few hours will hold. I want to show you -- we understand I'm told that there is chanting going on.

Let's try to go to Ivan Watson if we can. Ivan, what are you seeing and hearing?

WATSON: Well, we've been hearing from the loud speakers throughout the night and throughout the day, and they've been sending a variety of different messages, some of them political.

At one point, the man on the loud speaker was saying, we will not negotiate with Omar Suleiman, the newly-appointed vice president. We will not retreat. We will not give in to the agents of the U.S. or the agents of Israel. That has been some of the tenor of the announcements that have been made.

And then at other times they've told the men here to wake up and to rush to one end or the other end of the Square to defend it from the fury (ph) of attacks.

COOPER: Ben, I want to bring you in, because I heard somebody who was a supporter of the pro Mubarak supporters saying on CNN that he felt the people in the Square were Hamas supporters, were hard-line elements.

WEDEMAN: No, I wouldn't say that. There's a certain percentage probably, around 10 percent, who you could characterize as members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. But by and large, I'm impressed at sort of what a middle class crowd it is.

Most of the people I spoke with were professionals or students, they're lawyers, doctors, accountants; very much a middle class spectrum out there with an Islamic element, but not an overly assertive one.

GORANI: And it's interesting that the Islamic element that you described, 10 percent maybe 20 percent, is pretty much what they end up registering in an election. So it is kind of a cross section, perhaps a representative cross section of Egypt in that crowd.

COOPER: I want to show our viewers an incident which occurred to our team but it's similar to instances which occurred to many other reporters and certainly many other individuals.

And again, I just want to say we're showing it to you not because it's particularly important what happened to us or memorable, but because we do think it's representative of just how quickly and show you just how quickly a situation, which seems safe, can quickly turn violent.

Let's take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): My cameraman, Neil Hallsworth, and my producer, MaryAnne Fox, and I were heading toward Liberation Square in order to report on both sides of the protests.

In order to get there, we had to pass through a crowd of pro-Mubarak protesters.

(on camera): So, it looks like the pro-Mubarak crowd has sort of gathered around the Egyptian Museum, which is at the -- one of the entrances to Liberation Square.

The military has this entire area cordoned off, so they wanted to keep the two sides separate, they would be able to. But at this point it looks like the military is just kind of standing by watching what's happening. You can see them behind me.

(voice-over): I was shooting this video on my flip camera, so as not to attract too much attention. Suddenly, a man jumped out of the crowd and tried to grab Neil's camera. That's when all hell broke loose. People started throwing punches, pushing us around, screaming at us.

We immediately decided to turn around and try to get to a safe location. Several Egyptian men helped us, but still the crowd followed, throwing punches. That man there had a knife in his hand.

(on camera): Hey. Hey.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.

(voice-over): We didn't want to run because we didn't want to the crowd to get emboldened, thinking we were scared, and chase us.

(on camera): Hey, calm down. Calm down.

Hey, hey, calm down. Calm down.

(voice-over): New people kept joining in, trying to punch us.

We only had about a block left to go when another guy came up and punched me in the head.

I've been hit now like ten times. The Egyptian soldiers -- the Egyptian soldiers are doing nothing.

Finally, we reached a safe location.

In, in.

(on camera): Where's Leah? Where's Leah?

(voice-over): All we were trying to do today was report on both sides of this conflict. All we wanted to do.


COOPER: As I tried to tell my mom several times today, I'm fine and to the parents of my team, they are fine, as well. And we appreciate all the concern we got of people on Twitter and stuff.

Again, our coverage continues. We've got more to talk about with our panel, with all the folks we have assembled all throughout the world, frankly, covering this. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And in the minutes remaining of our live coverage, I just want to go around to all the folks that we've assembled all around the world tonight; those here in Egypt, in Washington and elsewhere to just try to give some final thoughts about what we should be looking for in the next several hours. Key questions that need to be answered, the key things that you as a viewer should look for at home.

Let's start in Washington, Professor Ajami, what do you recommend our viewers look for in the hours ahead?

AJAMI: Anderson, this really is a reporter's story. This is really more your story than mine as a scholar or as someone who has written books or read books about Egypt. This is unchartered territory.

It's a fight for Egypt. I want to make one -- there's one piece of data about Mubarak. When Mubarak came into power in 1981, Egypt had 45 million people. Today, it has 80 million people. 35 million people have been born; have come into life under this man.

And he believes that this country is his. It belongs to him, and it belongs to his family. And it belongs to the military class around him. So it's a fight for Egypt and it's a fight, if you will, that Mubarak is determined, I think, to prevail in.

COOPER: John, what do you think the administration is going to be watching in the next 24 hours?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "JOHN KING U.S.A.": Well, Anderson, the administration has reached a calculation that Hosni Mubarak may be the last one to realize it, but that his country no longer belongs to him. One key point, they think the military is critical and they're not happy with the military the last 12 to 15 hours, but they also know it could be a lot worse.

They are hoping the military helps them here. They have made clear their outrage. We now have, Anderson, a public break. We have known from the diplomatic language the administration was mad at President Mubarak. We now have a public break with President Mubarak at the White House, spreading through the United States Congress, as well.

They will watch the next 24 hours in Egypt and, Anderson, they're also worried about instability in the region, because of the events playing out right before you.

COOPER: I should just remind any viewers that the U.S. Government sent out a tweet, the State Department sent out a tweet several hours ago, which we read on the air. And I'll just remind you. They're saying any American citizens in Egypt who wish to leave should -- who wish to leave on a U.S. government charter flight, which they are offering, have been offering since Monday, should head to the airport immediately, now that curfew has ended; when curfew ends at 7:00 a.m. here local time, which is in three minutes. They should head to the airport immediately, without delay if they want to get on those charter flights and get out of the country.

Ben Wedeman, I'm going to be sticking close to you, because I think you know this place better than anyone over the next day. What are you going to be looking for?

WEDEMAN: Really I think it's, as Fouad mentioned, it's the military. The military is going to play a key role here. And we saw them sit on the fence today in a sort of an almost fatal way, and clearly there's got to be some thinking at the top that this is not the way to go at a moment when this regime, the leader of this regime seems to be tottering.

GORANI: Ben mentioned the military. I think part of the interesting aspect of all of this is when you look forward to -- we should say when this regime falls. It's the military that holds the cards in the leadership in this country and so many others in the region. So they are going to be playing a political role. That's what the world is going to have to deal with.

I mean, the military is going to be involved in the political leadership of this country going forward. It seems unavoidable at this stage, at least in the shorter term.

COOPER: Fouad Ajami was saying this is unchartered territory and it's a reporter's story. What are the big questions you need answered in the next few hours or day to get a sense of where things are going?

WEDEMAN: I think we need to see if today -- if today for us in Cairo -- will be a repeat or even worse of what we saw yesterday because it's unfinished. This is still a stalemate. And is the government going to say, we lost that one and move on or are they going to say we're just going to redouble our efforts to get those protestors out of Tahrir Square and declare victory?

COOPER: And Ivan Watson, what are you going to be looking for as first light is now breaking and we're coming on 7:00 a.m. in Egypt, midnight in the East Coast of the United States?

WATSON: Well, the sun has come up over Tahrir Square and these thousands of people have survived the night. And that's saying something, frankly. And we'll see if they survive the coming day -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ivan, I want to thank you and Joe and Tommy for all your work and your continued work. John King in Washington, any final thoughts from you?

KING: I do believe it is critical to watch the military as Ben just noted. I would look to see the President of the United States to see if we hear from him directly tomorrow. There's been some criticism that the President has been speaking too much, but his press secretary broke clearly today. We know dialogue between the Secretary of State, the Defense Secretary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that will obviously continue urgently.

But there are big questions Anderson. They don't think President Mubarak will make the right choice. They think it has to be forced upon him by his vice president and to his military. And to the point I made earlier, they are deeply concerned the longer this plays out, it becomes more radical inside Egypt and becomes more disruptive throughout the region.

COOPER: I'm told we're seeing pictures of protestors throwing rocks at each other, live pictures. The battle has begun yet again. The battle continues as it has for this last day and no one can tell what the next hours hold.

I want to thank you all for joining us. All of our panel, Ben Wedeman, Hala Gorani, Professor Ajami, John King, Ivan Watson and his entire team, Arwa Damon -- everyone stay safe. We'll continue our coverage.

CNN remains here in Cairo broadcasting. We'll be back and I'll see you tomorrow.