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Egyptian soldiers at Rafah crossing Photo: AP
Egyptian soldiers at Rafah crossing Photo: AP
 
 

3 killed in gunfire exchanges in Cairo mass protests

Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters take to streets in protest of the ouster; some try to break into Morsi's holding compound, fired upon by army

Roi Kais
Published: 07.05.13, 15:37 / Israel News

Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters are demonstrating in Cairo on Friday against the ouster of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

 

At least three demonstrators were shot dead by Egyptian security forces on Friday outside the Republican Guard barracks in Cairo where Morsi is being held, security sources said.

 

According to AFP, the supporters, who approached the army compound with the attempt of breaking inside, returned fire.

 

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The Egyptian army's spokesperson denied that soldiers fired on the demonstrators and insisted that  the soldiers were using only blank rounds and teargas. It was unclear whether security forces other than the army were present.

 

Clashes between Morsi supporters and security services have been reported in three other cities: In El-Arish in northern Sinai, in Suez and Ismailia.

 

In all three protesters attempted to break into government officers, and security services fired in the air in response and used tear gas to control the crowd.

 

The tens of thousands participating in the Muslim Brotherhood demonstration shouted "down with the army regime," while hoisting the deposed president's photographs.

 

"The old regime is back… it's worse than before," said Ismail Abed al-Mukhsan, an 18-year-old student and fellow protestor. The interim president chosen by the army, Adli Mansour, he called "the army's puppet."

 

The crowd has started marching toward the Republican Guard's headquarters, while chanting: "After sunset, President Morsi will be in the palace again."

 

After a week of mass protests by the liberal anti-Morsi camp in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the square was nearly abandoned after the protestors' demand – the ouster of Morsi – was satisfied.

 

 

Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood demonstration became Friday's main event. To counteract, the opposition has released an urgent call to citizens to take to the streets and stage a demonstration in support of the ouster.

 

The National Salvation Front, the opposition groups' umbrella organization, stated that the people must defend the June 30 revolution (the name marking the date in which the first mass protests, which eventually led to the ouster, were held).

 


תומכי האחים המוסלמים בקהיר, היום (רויטרס)

Muslim Brotherhood supportes in Cairo, Friday (Photo: Reuters)


מפגינים בעד מורסי בצהריים בקהיר (צילום: רויטרס)

Pro-Morsi demonstrators (Photo: Reuters)


(צילום: רויטרס)

(Photo: Reuters)


כיכר תחריר כמעט ריקה, בצהריים (רויטרס)

The nearly empty Tahrir Square, Friday noon (Photo: Reuters)

 

The Front's Spokesperson Khaled Daud told Reuters that the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies' demonstration is "resistance to the revolution."

 

Sinai alert

Meanwhile, an Egyptian army's spokesperson denied previous reports by the al-Ahram newspaper and claimed the army has not declared a state of emergency in South Sinai and Suez provinces.

 

The spokesman said the army in the Sinai peninsula was "on alert." Al-Ahram had reported that raised alert levels were in response to an overnight attack by Islamist gunmen on an airport in the North Sinai town of El-Arish, in which a high-ranking officer was killed.

 

During the attacks, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at army checkpoints guarding the airport and rocketed a police station near the border with Gaza. One soldier was killed and two wounded.

 

Egyptian media also reported that  two Egyptian soldiers were killed in a military outpost in El-Arish in Sinai after being shot in the head by armed men, and an officer was also injured.

  

Dozens of people were wounded in clashes in Morsi's Nile Delta home city on Thursday, raising fears of more of the violence in which several dozen have died in the past month.

 

How the army deals with any trouble will help determine future support for Cairo from the United States and other international powers.

 

Concern that the generals have carried out a military coup against Egypt's first freely elected leader has left Washington reviewing the $1.5 billion in mostly military aid it annually gives Egypt. US law bars aid for countries where the military has toppled an elected government in a coup. Washington has so far avoided using that label.

 

Outside the Rabaa Adaweya mosque in a Cairo suburb, where Morsi supporters have gathered over the last week, the army deployed extra armored vehicles several hundred meters from makeshift barricades. Thousands of people milled around the area, while a group of about 50 men shouted pro-Morsi slogans.

 

"Down, down with military rule!" they chanted. "We call for jihad in the whole country."

 

In the skies above the teeming city, the air force staged fly-pasts, with jets leaving red, white and black smoke streams - representing the Egyptian flag - behind them in a show of force the military has employed frequently since Morsi's ouster.

 


מעבר רפיח. נפתח לחמש דקות - ונסגר (צילום: AP)

Egyptian soldiers at Rafah crossing (Photo: AP)

 

A military source said: "We will continue to secure the places of protest with troops, and jets if necessary, to make sure the pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators don't confront each other. We will let them demonstrate and go where they want."

 

Morsi's political opponents insist there was no coup.

 

Rather, the army heeded the "will of the people" in forcing the president out. Millions rallied on Sunday to protest over a collapsing economy and political deadlock, in which Morsi had failed to build a broad consensus after a year in office.

 

It was not immediately clear whether the violence in the long-unstable Sinai was directly linked to the overthrow of Morsi. Early on Friday, security sources said Islamist gunmen opened fire on El-Arish airport, close to the border with the Gaza Strip and Israel, and at three military checkpoints.

 

A police station in Rafah on the Gaza border was hit by rockets, wounding several soldiers. Security forces closed the border crossing. State media said it would reopen on Saturday.

  

After a busy day of diplomacy by concerned Obama administration officials interrupting their Independence Day holiday in Washington, the Egyptian armed forces command issued a late-night statement guaranteeing rights to protest and free expression, and pledging not to pursue arbitrary measures against any political group.

 

The uncontroversial phrasing belied a busy 24 hours since the military chief suspended the constitution, detained Morsi and oversaw the swearing in of the chief justice of the constitutional court as Egypt's interim head of state.

 


שלטים בגנות מורסי (צילום: אלדד בק)

Anti-Morsi poster (Photo: Eldad Beck)

 

In addition to Morsi, the country's first freely elected leader, several senior figures in his Muslim Brotherhood were held, security sources said. Prosecutors were investigating various charges, including incitement to violence and, in the case of Morsi himself, insulting the judiciary.

 

Television channels owned by or seen as sympathetic to the Brotherhood were abruptly taken off air. The state printer did not run off its party newspaper on Thursday or Friday.

 

"These media paint a different picture of the situation, which the army does not want people to see," said Islam Taqfiq from the media committee at the Brotherhood's political wing.

 

In Zagazig, the Nile Delta city where Morsi has a family home, 80 people were injured. Witnesses said the army moved in to seal the area after an attack on pro-Morsi protesters by men on motorcycles led to clashes with sticks, knives and bottles.

 

For a movement that has been banned and politically oppressed for most of its 85-year history, such developments have reinforced impressions among the Islamists that a "deep state", once loyal to fallen autocrat Hosni Mubarak and his army-backed predecessors, is still determined to crush it.

 

Washington, the armed forces' longtime sponsor, has voiced concern for human rights, but also for stability. Egypt's peace with Israel and control of the Suez Canal give it a strategic importance beyond its 84 million people.

 

Washington, along with Middle Eastern allies from Israel to Saudi Arabia, are not lamenting the Brotherhood's stunning reversal. The organization has long represented many Arabs' hopes for a better society but was found gravely wanting during Morsi's year of missteps and rancorous division.

 

While avoiding the word "coup," the White House said some on Obama's national security team had contacted Egyptian officials "to convey the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government".

 

Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, staying in a caretaker role after resigning from Morsi's cabinet, spent the day reassuring ambassadors and speaking by phone to foreign officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry.

 

"He was worried about the status of human rights," Amr said. "Understandably. I assured him there is no retribution, no acts of vengeance, that nobody will be treated outside the law."

 

Amr said he conveyed the the message that there had been no "military coup". The army had merely heeded the popular will.

 

Adly Mansour, the constitutional court chief justice sworn in as interim head of state on Thursday, has held out an olive branch to the Brotherhood, but a senior official in the Islamist movement said it would not work with "the usurper authorities".

 

Another of its politicians said Morsi's overthrow would push other groups, though not his own, to violent resistance.

 

The armed forces' statement contained a warning to those Islamists planning to demonstrate on Friday.

 

"Excessive use of this right without reason could carry some negative implications, including blocking roads, delaying public benefits and destroying institutions, posing a threat to social peace, the national interest and damaging the security and economy in our precious Egypt."

 

Elior Levy, Reuters contributed to this report

 

 

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