Mubarak's Hold on Power Slipping

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The 30-year tenure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may be nearing an end after five days of unprecedented rioting has left more than 100 dead across the country, with no end of the violence in sight.

In pre-dawn raids Sunday morning, gangs of armed men entered several jails, freeing hundreds of Muslim terrorists, The Associated Press reported.

Enraged protesters continued to call for Mubarak's ouster, unwilling to accept his governance any longer. Even his appointment of a vice president over the weekend, Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman - a first since Mubarak held the post 30 years ago - is viewed as more of the same heavy-handed, authoritarian rule.

Suleiman, 74, like the beleaguered president, comes from a military background and as such is viewed by the dissidents as part of the old guard despite his long and distinguished military and political career. Well known and respected in Washington, his role as mediator in issues concerning Israel and the Palestinians doesn't bode well in the anti-Israel climate pervading Egypt.

"This is all nonsense. They will not fool us anymore. We want the head of the snake," AP quoted a teacher with the same last name as the president. "If he is appointed by Mubarak, then he is just one more member of the gang. We are not speaking about a branch in a tree. We are talking about the roots," he said.

Banks and the stock market remained closed on Sunday - the first day of the Egyptian work week - as did schools. Rampant looting throughout the city has prompted home and business owners to board up buildings in an attempt to protect themselves and their property.

Gangs armed with knives and clubs, have been roaming the streets stealing televisions, furniture and whatever else they could manage to carry. Self-appointed vigilantes attempting to guard neighborhoods in the sprawling city have replaced units of riot police.

The military has been deployed mainly around key government buildings, tourist and archaeological sites, including the pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo. But rioters still managed to destroy two mummies dating back to the Pharaohs and damage several relics from the Tut collection at the Egypt Museum, chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass said.

Unlike the police, hated for their brutality, many of the soldiers seem to identify with the revolt and are unwilling to confront the protesters.

Like their Tunisian counterparts, protesters are determined to bring down what they view as a corrupt regime that has been in power far too long.

"To hell with Mubarak; we don't serve individuals," a soldier yelled from a tank sporting graffiti that read, "Down with Mubarak," AP reported.

Meanwhile, Israel boosted its forces along the southern border with Egypt over the weekend. Israel's Channel 1 reported Saturday night that gunfire was heard in and around the Rafah border crossing between the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing until further notice and deployed large numbers of troops along the border, the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported.

A regime change in Egypt, especially one in which the Muslim Brotherhood gets a footing, will necessitate tactical adjustments in the way Israel protects its southern border against the Arab world's strongest and best equipped military.

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AP contributed to this report.

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