Mubarak exit sets off celebrations across Mideast

Beirut (Lebanon), Feb 11 (AP) Celebrations eruptedacross the Middle East today after Hosni Mubarak stepped downas Egypt''s president.

From Beirut to Gaza, people rushed into the streets,handing out candy, setting off fireworks and shooting in theair.

Even in Israel, which had watched the Egyptianprotesters'' uprising against Mubarak with concern, a formerCabinet minister said Mubarak did the right thing.

"The street won. There was nothing that could be done.

It''s good that he did what he did," former Defense MinisterBinyamin Ben-Eliezer, who knew Mubarak well, told Israel TV''sChannel 10.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peacetreaty with Israel, and there are fears the 1979 accord couldnow be challenged.

Moments after Egypt''s Vice President Omar Suleimanmade the announcement of Mubarak''s resignation, fireworks litup the sky over Beirut. Celebratory gunfire rang out in theShiite-dominated areas in south Lebanon and in southernBeirut.

On Al-Manar TV, the station run by the Shiite MuslimHezbollah faction, Egyptian anchor Amr Nassef, who was onceimprisoned in Egypt for alleged ties to Islamists, criedemotionally on the air and said: "Allahu Akbar (God is great),the Pharaoh is dead. Am I dreaming? I''m afraid to bedreaming."

In Tunisia, where a successful uprising expelled alongtime leader only weeks earlier, cries of joy and thethundering honking of horns greeted the announcement. "Goddelivered our Egyptian brothers from this dictator," saidYacoub Youssef, one of those celebrating in the capital ofTunis.

Tunisia inspired pro-democracy protest movementsacross the Arab world after a month of deadly demonstrationspushed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile in SaudiArabia on January 14.

There was no immediate official reaction fromTunisia''s caretaker government. In the Gaza Strip, ruled bythe Islamic militant Hamas, thousands rushed into the streetsin jubilation. Gunmen fired in the air and women handed outcandy. "God bless Egypt, it''s a day of joy and God willing allcorrupt leaders in the world will fall," said Radwa Abu Ali,55, one of the women distributing sweets.

Egypt, along with Israel, had enforced a borderblockade on Gaza after the territory was seized by Hamas in2007. There were some expectations that under a new Egyptianregime, the blockade would be eased.

"This is a victory for the will of the people and aturning point in the future of the region," said FawziBarhoum, a Hamas spokesman. (AP)

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