Israeli police forces crack down on protesters. (File photo)
An Israeli minister says Egyptian government forces will have to exercise force to rein in public protests as the African country is teetering on the brink of a Tunisia-style revolution.
Inspired by the recent popular revolution in Tunisia, which resulted in the historic overthrow of the country's President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali, Egyptians have staged similar anti-government protests since Tuesday, calling on President Hosni Mubarak to relinquish power after three decades in office.
Meanwhile, an Israeli cabinet minister who spoke on condition of anonymity to Israeli media stated on Thursday that the Egyptian president backed by a strong militarily prowess will eventually subdue the crisis, The Washington Post reported.
"His regime is well-rooted in the military and security apparatus," said the Israeli minister, adding that, "They will have to exercise force, power in the street and do it. But they are strong enough according to my assessment to overcome it."
Egypt, which is widely regarded as the first Arab country to seal peace agreement with Israel three decades ago, remains one of Tel Aviv's most important allies.
On Thursday, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters that Tel Aviv is closely watching the still-unfolding situation in Egypt, and does not see a threat in its ties with the African nation.
"Egypt is the most important country in the Arab world. Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel and we think that the treaty, that the peace treaty with Israel is very strong and the (mutual) interests between the two countries are very big and important," Shalom asserted.
He made the remarks as tens of thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo and a string of other cities to protest against the 82-year-old Mubarak.
In the city of Suez, along the strategic Suez Canal, protesters set ablaze a fire station and stole weapons that they then turned on police.
Meanwhile, Egyptian security forces took up positions in strategic locations, including Cairo's Tahrir Square, site of the biggest demonstrations this week, raising fears that the government would mount its crackdown on demonstrators. HA/MGH