CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces used tear gas to disperse small protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday, witnesses said, deterring what opposition groups expected to be a day of large demonstrations against his rule.
Earlier this month, thousands of Egyptians angered by Sisi's decision to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia called for his government to fall in the largest demonstration since the former military general took office in 2014.
Security forces moved swiftly on Monday to prevent this scenario from repeating, blocking roads in Cairo leading to a popular downtown meeting point and dispersing a march in the Dokki neighbourhood with tear gas as it took off, a witness said.
Videos and pictures posted on social media also showed that teargas was used at a small protest in the Imbaba district.
Jets and helicopters were circling over Cairo.
Police in recent days have arrested over 90 people across eight governorates, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based human rights group. Groups of youth were arrested from coffee shops and others targeted in their homes, it said.
The ministry of interior was not immediately available for comment.
On Sunday, Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghaffar said there would be no leniency against any "any attempts to destabilise national security and any vital public or police facilities".
Monday's protests, which coincide with a national holiday celebrating the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula in 1982, come as Sisi faces mounting criticism for a government accord putting the uninhabited Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters.
Saudi and Egyptian officials say the islands belong to the kingdom across the Red Sea and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh had asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them.
Popular backlash to the decision evolved into broader opposition against Sisi and his government earlier this month, when protests carrying the 2011-era chant "down with military rule" spilled into the streets of downtown Cairo.
(Reporting by Cairo bureau; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Tom Heneghan)