Grenades fired in Cairo, troops killed near Suez Canal after protesters die


Suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers near the Suez Canal and fired rocket-propelled grenades at a state satellite station in Cairo on Monday, suggesting an Islamist insurgency was gathering pace three months after an army takeover.

Dozens of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed in clashes with security forces and political opponents on Sunday, one of the bloodiest days since the military deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.

The death toll from that day's violence across the country rose to 53, state media said, with 271 people wounded.

The Brotherhood denies the military's charges that it incites violence and says it has nothing to do with militant activity, but further confrontations may shake Egypt this week, with Mursi's supporters calling protests for Tuesday and Friday.

They are likely to be angered by the publication of an interview with Egypt's army chief on Monday in which he said he told Mursi as long ago as February he had failed as president.

Sunday's clashes took place on the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel — meant to have been a day of national celebration. The countries signed a peace agreement in 1979.

Authorities had warned that anyone protesting against the army during the anniversary would be regarded as an agent of foreign powers, not an activist – a hardening of language that suggested authorities would take a tougher line.

The Muslim Brotherhood accused the army of staging a coup and working with security forces to eliminate the group through violence and arrests, allegations the military denies.

Sinai-based militants have stepped up attacks on the security forces since the army takeover and assaults like that in Cairo's Maadi suburb fuel fears of an Islamist insurgency like one in the 1990s crushed by then President Hosni Mubarak.

Two people were wounded in the attack on the state-owned satellite station while medical sources said three were killed and 48 injured in a blast near a state security building in South Sinai. A witness said it was caused by a car bomb.

“Unidentified people opened fire on a satellite receiver station in the neighborhood of Maadi in Cairo,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement. Security sources said assailants fired two rocket-propelled grenades at the site.

Security sources said gunmen opened fire on the soldiers in Ismailia while they were sitting in a car at a checkpoint near the city on the Canal, a vital global trade route.

TOURISM HIT

Traffic flowed freely in the centre of Cairo where Sunday's clashes had taken place and state radio said security forces were in control of the country.

But attacks in Cairo like Monday's on the satellite station could do further damage to Egypt's vital tourism industry.

David Hartwell, a Middle East analyst at IHS Jane's, said more explosive devices seemed to be being used in the capital.

“It suggests that Sinai groups are infiltrating in greater numbers in to northern Egypt,” he said. “Either these groups are expanding out of Sinai, he said, “or the capabilities that they have is being used by other groups that may or not be affiliated with the Brotherhood.”

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has promised a political roadmap that would lead Egypt to free and fair elections, said in the interview published on Monday that Egypt's interests differed from those of the Brotherhood.

“I told Mursi in February you failed and your project is finished,” privately-owned newspaper al-Masry al-Youm quoted Sisi as saying.

Militant attacks, including a failed assassination attempt on the interior minister in Cairo in September, are deepening uncertainty in Egypt along with the power struggle between the Brotherhood and the army-backed government.

Neither side seems willing to pursue reconciliation, raising the possibility of protracted tensions in U.S. ally Egypt.

Almost daily attacks by al Qaeda-inspired militants in the Sinai have killed more than 100 members of the security forces since early July, the army spokesman said on September 15.

Security forces smashed pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, killing hundreds of people. In an ensuing crackdown, many Muslim Brotherhood leaders were arrested in an attempt to decapitate Egypt's oldest Islamist movement.

The Brotherhood, which had proven highly resilient after previous crackdowns, has embarked on a strategy of staging smaller protests to avoid action by security forces.

Sisi denied Brotherhood allegations that the army had intended to remove Mursi through a coup, saying it had only responded to the will of the people.

Before Mursi's overthrow, Egyptians disillusioned with his year-long rule had held huge rallies demanding that he quit.

Last month, a court banned the Brotherhood and froze its assets, pushing the group, which had dominated elections held in Egypt after Mubarak's fall in 2011, further into the cold.

Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Maggie Fick; Writing by Michael Georgy

Egyptian army threatens to shoot violent protesters


Egypt's army threatened on Thursday to shoot those who use violence in a stark warning before what both sides expect will be a bloody street showdown between Islamists and opponents of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

An army official said the military had set Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood an ultimatum, giving it until Saturday to sign up to a plan for political reconciliation which it has so far spurned.

The army has summoned Egyptians into the streets on Friday in an intended turning point in its confrontation with followers of Morsi, the elected leader the generals removed on July 3.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has maintained a street vigil for a month with thousands of supporters demanding Morsi's reinstatement, has called its own crowds out for counter-demonstrations across Egypt in a “day to remove the coup.”

Both sides have dramatically escalated rhetoric before Friday's demonstrations. The Brotherhood accused the army of pushing the nation towards civil war and committing a crime worse than destroying Islam's holiest site.

In a Facebook post, the army said it will not “turn its guns against its people, but it will turn them against black violence and terrorism which has no religion or nation”.

A military official said the army had given the Brotherhood 48 hours from Thursday afternoon to join the political process. He did not say what would happen if it refuses.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called on Egyptians to take to the streets and give him a “mandate” to act against the violence that has convulsed Egypt since he shunted its first freely elected president from power.

The Brotherhood, which has won repeated elections since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, accuses the authorities of stirring up the violence to justify their crackdown.

Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian cleric based in Qatar, issued a religious edict broadcast on Al Jazeera television urging soldiers to disobey orders to kill.

“I call on officers and soldiers in the Egyptian army not to listen to what al-Sisi says, or anyone else. Do not kill anyone. Do not kill your brothers. It is forbidden,” Qaradawi declared.

The main anti-Morsi youth protest group, which has backed the army, said it would go to the streets to “cleanse Egypt”.

The West is increasingly alarmed at the course taken by Egypt, a strategic hinge between the Middle East and North Africa, since protests in 2011 brought down Mubarak and ended decades of autocratic rule in the most populous Arab state.

Signaling its displeasure, Washington has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo. On Thursday, the White House urged the army to exercise “maximum restraint and caution”.

The United States has yet to decide whether to call the military's takeover a “coup”, language that would require it to halt $1.5 billion it sends in annual aid, mostly for the army.

“CLEANSE EGYPT”

For weeks, the authorities have rounded up some Brotherhood officials but tolerated the movement's presence on the streets, with thousands of people attending its pro-Morsi vigil and tens of thousands appearing at its demonstrations.

That patience seems to have run out. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, head of the interim cabinet installed by the army, said there was growing violence by increasingly well-armed protesters, citing a bomb attack on a police station.

“The presence of weapons, intimidation, fear – this causes concern, especially when there are calls for many to come out tomorrow from different sides,” he told a news conference.

After a month nearly 200 people have died in political violence, many fear the protests will lead to more bloodshed.

Past incidents of violence have tended to run through the night and into the following day. Another security official forecast clashes beginning Friday night and stretching into Saturday, the period covered by the army's ultimatum. He also indicated that the two-day period was expected to be decisive.

“The history of Egypt will be written on those days,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Reiterating his group's commitment to peaceful protest, senior Brotherhood politician Farid Ismail accused the security services of readying militias to attack Morsi supporters, adding that Sisi aimed to drag Egypt into civil war.

“His definition of terrorism is anyone who disagrees with him,” Ismail told Reuters. “We are moving forward in complete peacefulness, going forward to confront this coup.”

Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie accused Sisi of committing a crime worse than destroying the Kaaba – the site in Mecca to which all Muslims face when they pray – “brick by brick”.

But many Egyptians are no less passionately backing the army, determined to see the Brotherhood reined in.

“There are men carrying guns on the street … We will not let extremists ruin our revolution,” said Mohammed Abdul Aziz, a spokesman for Tamarud, an anti-Morsi petition campaign that mobilized protests against his rule.

“Tomorrow we will cleanse Egypt,” he told Reuters.

UNCOMPROMISING

Sisi's speech on Wednesday pointed to the deepening confrontation between the Brotherhood and the military establishment, which has reasserted its role at the heart of government even as it says it aims to steer clear of politics.

Saying it moved against Morsi in response to the biggest popular protests in Egypt's history, the army installed an interim cabinet that plans to hold parliamentary elections in about six months, to be followed by a presidential vote.

The Brotherhood says it wants nothing to do with the transition plan. With Morsi still in military detention at an undisclosed location, there is slim hope for compromise.

Egypt remains deeply split over what happened on July 3. The Brotherhood accuses the army of ejecting a democratically elected leader in a long-planned coup, while its opponents say the army responded to the will of the people.

Sisi announced the nationwide rallies after the bombing of a police station in Mansoura, a city north of Cairo, in which a policeman was killed. The government called it a terrorist attack. The Brotherhood also condemned the bombing, accusing the establishment of seeking to frame it.

Since Morsi was deposed, hardline Islamist groups have intensified a violent campaign against the state in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, with near-daily attacks on the police and army.

Two more soldiers were killed on Thursday in an attack on a checkpoint, security and medical sources said.

At the Brotherhood protest camp near a Cairo mosque, Morsi supporters said they expected the army to provoke violence to justify its crackdown. “The army itself will strike. They will use thugs and the police,” said medical student Sarah Ahmad, 24.

Essam wl-Erian, another senior Brotherhood politician, accused “the putschists” of trying to recreate a police state, telling a televised news conference: “This state will never return, and Egypt will not go backwards.”

Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Maggie Fick, Noah Browning, Tom Finn, Shadia Nasralla, Asma Alsharif and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Tom Perry and Matt Robinson; Editing by Peter Graff and Alistair Lyon

Iran says Egyptian army interference is ‘unacceptable’


Iran on Monday called the Egyptian army's ousting of president Mohamed Morsi “unacceptable” and said Israel and the West did not want to see a powerful Egypt.

The comments from Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi were more disapproving than his immediate reaction last Thursday, when he merely called for the Egyptian people's “legitimate demands” to be fulfilled.

Iran welcomed the popular overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, calling it an “Islamic awakening” inspired in part by its own 1979 revolution, and after Morsi's election victory last year it sought to repair its strained ties with Egypt.

However, the two countries now have found themselves supporting opposite sides in the civil war in Syria. While Shi'ite Iran is President Bashar al-Assad's closest Arab ally, largely Sunni Muslim Egypt under Morsi has voiced its support for the mostly Sunni rebel groups seeking to overthrow Assad.

On Monday, Araqchi said: “What is important is giving significance to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people,” according to the Mehr news agency.

“However, military intervention in politics is unacceptable and a cause for concern.”

Araqchi warned against greater divisions in Egyptian society, adding: “Certainly foreign hands are also at work, and … the West and the Zionist regime (Israel) will not want a powerful Egypt.”

Several dozen people were killed on Monday when Islamist demonstrators enraged by the Morsi's overthrow said the army opened fire on them at the Cairo barracks where he was being held. The military said a group of armed assailants had tried to storm the compound and soldiers returned fire.

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Jon Hemming and Kevin Liffey

The power and the mandate in Egypt


Mohamed Morsi is now out, and it is virtually impossible for him to pull off a personal comeback in the near future. His downfall is a result of his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s unsophisticated view of democracy in conjunction with their naïve assumption that they had real power. This combination proved to be a fatal mistake. They mistakenly assumed that once Morsi was elected by a majority of voters (not the majority of the people), he was given both the mandate and the power to rule. The truth of any democracy is that neither of these assumptions is automatically true.

Morsi’s failed mandate

Morsi was given his mandate by a narrow majority, and only of those voting — not the Egyptian people. His mandate was provisional. Many of those demonstrating in Tahrir Square and elsewhere did not vote. Certain activist groups withdrew from the process because they were afraid they would give legitimacy to the Muslim Brotherhood. Others voted for Morsi but were against the Muslim Brotherhood. Why would they vote for Morsi yet oppose the Brotherhood? Because the election was manipulated to be a vote between the Brotherhood represented by Morsi, and the military represented by Ahmed Shafiq. Many preferred even a Muslim Brotherhood activist to the military. Morsi’s mandate was short-lived because it became obvious to all who are not hard-core Muslim Brotherhood supporters that he was not interested in real democracy. Many of those who had voted for him last year publicly opposed him in recent days. The extraordinary number of demonstrators proved how disappointed the country was with his failure to govern properly.

Where lies the power in Egypt?

The Egyptian military proved without a shadow of a doubt where the power lies in Egypt. Morsi was deposed in five minutes after a 48-hour warning and without really firing a shot. This is a powerful message to the Egyptian people. The power lies with the Egyptian armed forces. If a political leader or party does not please the army, they will eventually be in trouble. Note the parallel, by the way, with Turkey until only recently — but that’s a different discussion.

The military

The military clearly has the power. At this moment, from the clear message of the current round of demonstrations, it also has the popular mandate. The question that needs to be considered most urgently is, what does the military want?

The military does not want to govern directly. It has experienced that, it did it badly, and it wanted out. That is why there were democratic elections. The army allowed elections and supported them.

The army wants Egypt to be functional. That is its bottom line. It does not care much about democracy. The culture of military life does not promote feelings of democracy. Armies can only function properly when officers give orders without discussion and debate. But whether the army is pro-democracy, anti-democracy, or simply a-democracy, it sees its major responsibility to defend the country from outsiders and not insiders. It does not want to deploy on the streets and fight against its own citizens.

The army does not want to govern, but it wants the country to be functional, and it is here where it can be influenced. Those forces or parties that seem most capable of running a functional country, while channeling to the army the resources that it considers its due, will get the support of the army.

The old regime

Mubarak was the person in authority, but he did not really have the power. When it became clear to the military that Mubarak was a liability, he was simply removed. He was no longer able to control the street, so he was eliminated. The military was loved for their act because it was seen as the salvation of Egypt and the source of a new hope for democracy. But remember that democracy is unimportant for the military. They can take it or leave it, as long as their position is protected and the country will be functional. It is certainly not functional now, but the military is the only institution at this point that has the time, patience and resources to work through the ups and downs and stay on top of the situation.

In the meantime, the entire bureaucracy of the Egyptian state was staffed with people who were loyal to Mubarak — who was loyal to the military. The military has always feared and hated the Muslim Brotherhood, so when Morsi took over the leadership of the Egyptian bureaucracy as president, his efforts at running the system were stonewalled. He failed on his own accord to work with anybody who was not Brotherhood, but he failed in the normal bureaucratic running of the country because he was set up to fail. 

The street

The biggest change that the Arab Spring brought to the Arab world is the lesson that the Arab people now, after centuries of lethargy and indifference, are willing to rise up against what they consider to be unacceptable governance. That has been a shock to everybody, including the military two years ago and the Muslim Brotherhood last week. Recall that the Brotherhood only joined the demonstrations when it saw that it had no choice. Brotherhood leaders realized that to hold back would have cost them a sense of legitimacy in Egyptian society. And last week, we saw that Morsi and the Brotherhood completely misread the willingness of the people to rise up in self-sacrifice yet again in order to improve their unhappy lives.

The inherent problem with “the street” is that it is such a big tent that it can only articulate general demands. It cannot deal with specifics. The specifics need to be worked out democratically, but Egypt has no real experience with the process of democracy. That is one of the reasons why Morsi failed. He failed to act like a mature and caring ruler. He failed to work with his opposition. He failed to find solutions through compromise. Like many other Egyptians, Morsi did not understand that once in power a leader still needs to continue to listen to the will of the people.

This, by the way, is a very important observation for those who have said that Egypt will be a democratic country only for the span of one election. Once the Muslim Brotherhood is democratically elected, they said, that will be the end of democracy. The street has proven otherwise, and all Egyptians now understand this. So does the army. It was the will and support of the people that enabled Morsi to sideline the army when he did so some months ago. It was the will of the people that gave the army the opportunity to assert itself once again this week. There is a lot of potential with the street (i.e., the will of the people), but it has to be measured fairly and managed effectively. The current process of calling out the masses for vague demands for change does neither, and so far, its success is only partial.

The military coup

The removal of Morsi was a military coup. Some people call it a revolution because it had the support of the street and probably a significant majority of the Egyptian people. But it was not a popular revolution, and what happened is not really a new phenomenon in Egypt. The “Free Officers Movement” that brought Nasser to power in the 1950s also had the vague support of the street. It was not a revolution either, and the result was a military dictatorship that has endured ever since. 

So we are now at a moment when the military, with the blessing of the majority of the Egyptian people, has actually put a brake on the democratic process. The process was flawed but was nevertheless an important movement in the right direction. The military is now the obvious power in Egypt and will remain so for the immediate future. It is working with various factions, but always with the same goal of remaining at the core of the system.

What has changed?

Actually a lot, in fact a sea change among the Egyptian people as a whole. An overwhelming majority of Egyptians — secular, religious, on the left and right of center as well as in the middle — want more freedom, support for diversity, more economic opportunity and an end to cronyism. They want equal opportunity and a fair chance to build their lives, and many are willing to fight and risk their lives to achieve it. On the other hand, they have not experienced true democracy and they have shown that they do not understand its processes. They have little experience dealing with the difficult life of political barter, and they have virtually no Egyptian role models aside from military or religious leadership, neither of which is particularly interested in democratic ideals. The Egyptian people need to develop their own version of democratic governance, and they are struggling with making that happen. We will see in the next months and years whether the will of the people will translate into a truly functional democracy.


Rabbi Reuven Firestone is professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles and co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement at the University of California.

Morsi reportedly ousted by Army


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

Egyptian state media reported Wednesday night that the army has deposed President Mohamed Morsi. Earlier, a meeting presided over by the Egyptian military that included representatives from political, religious and national groups was held on Wednesday evening. State media, citing anonymous sources, reported that the army deadline demanding President Morsi’s compliance with opposition demands had been extended in order to reach a peaceful conclusion among the diverse interests. By late evening, tanks were deployed in Cairo and elsewhere in an attempt to prevent chaos.

Rumors from inside Egypt’s military echelon speak of the creation of a ruling council that would include representatives of all relevant sectors – military, political, religious – and allow Morsi to remain in power with the promise of “early presidential elections once the constitution is re-written.”

The Egyptian military took control of state television on Wednesday as the army’s ultimatum to President Mohamed Morsi to reach an agreement with his opponents approached. Morsi issued a plea for calm in remarks aired on Egyptian TV Tuesday night, but his rejection of the army's 48-hour threat to intercede appears only to have heightened tensions in the street with the president offering his people an olive branch that few were prepared to accept.

The situation remained fluid Wednesday morning as the Egyptian people were watching and contemplating the possibility of civil war.

After his speech, clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators resulting in the deaths of at least sixteen of his supporters who were camped out in front of Cairo University. “Heavy clashes are taking place and cars are on fire,” journalist Baher Ghorab told The Media Line.

[Related: Egypt army commander suspends constitution, appoints interim head of state]

Through Tuesday night, the army sought to maintain neutrality between the government and opposition, with no signs of intervention apparent.

“Morsi defied the army's 48-hour ultimatum given to all political factions in Egypt to find a resolution that benefits Egypt,” Egyptian Army Capt. Amr Tolba told the Media Line.

In his speech, the president was adamant in rejecting the ultimatum and asserted that he would remain in office.
Morsi also assured Egyptians that, “Egypt will sustain its production of food, its own defense, and maintain its natural resources.”

On the streets, however, it appeared to observers that the Egyptian people were uninterested in paying heed.  Huge crowds estimated as high as 25 million protesters poured out across the nation in what was the largest mass protest seen since the first day of the revolution that brought down Hosni Mubarak in January 2011.

Sky News Arabia reported that anti-Morsi protesters in Alexandria had started blocking the railroad to Cairo, as the army’s deadline loomed.

Several  Morsi supporters interviewed by The Media Line said they are willing to pay with their lives to protect the legitimacy of Egypt's democracy and constitution.

“We will protect the president and those behind him, and if required we will seek martyrdom to protect the Islamic Project,” [referring to a plan calling for Islamic party rule throughout the region]. “We will not allow the immoral opposition to take this dream of a better life away from us,” demonstrator Hamdy Sayed told The Media Line.

On the other hand, liberals who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood's rule, are equally adamant.

“Morsi escaped from prison with the help of foreign militias. Egypt and Egyptians don't support terrorism or terrorists,” anti-Morsi demonstrator Yasmine Khatab told The Media Line from Tahrir Square.

Khatab was referring to the years Morsi spent in prison following allegations that he spied for a foreign country during the rule of Hosni Mubarak when the Moslem Brotherhood was outlawed. Morsi escaped at the beginning of the revolution that overthrew Mubarak in 2011, and in turn, accused the ousted president of corruption and of stifling democracy.

“Some people don't want democracy to succeed because it will not allow them to steal your money,” Morsi said in his rambling late-night speech on Tuesday.

The embattled president added that Egypt is an independent state with challenges that will take time to overcome, claiming that thirty-two families control most of Egypt's wealth. Morsi lamented that supporters of the old regime don't like the democratic experiment going on in the country now.

Morsi’s supporters argue that he was elected through a democratic process and should therefore remain in power.

“The opposition [at the time] shoved an election process in our face — 25 million Egyptians participated in the elections, and Morsi won. Now they are like kids who want to spoil a game because it doesn't go their way,” Mohammed Zahran, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, told The Media Line.

In an effort to defuse the on-going tension in his remarks, Morsi spoke of an initiative for reforms that would include reviewing the articles of the constitution many Egyptians oppose and of bringing a better government to serve their needs. He stressed that he will protect the constitution and will lead an open dialogue with opposition groups for the benefit of all Egyptians.

Morsi also urged Egyptians not to clash with anyone from the army. “The army is the backbone of Egypt and all Egyptians need to respect it and let it protect Egypt from foreign enemies. Don't confront the army and don't use violence against it,” the president admonished his constituents.

Egypt's key geopolitical position as the largest Arab country underscores its importance to the international community. It is the second-largest recipient of American foreign aid, just behind Israel with $3 billion annually. Some in Egypt fear that aid could be jeopardized if Egypt pursues an anti-democratic course.

Egyptians also stress their nation’s importance by referring to the Suez Canal, the vital waterway for global shipping; its strategic position bordering the Gaza Strip; and the importance the world community places in Egypt maintaining the Camp David peace treaty, in force since 1979.

There is concern that unless the Egyptian army remains vigilant and prevents chaos during the current crisis, the United States could reduce or retract its military support and find another player to help protect its interests in the region.

“The country is already divided between different religious and political factions; all they need are guns like in Libya,” Ahmed Seddik, a tour guide who voted for Morsi told The Media Line. He said that, “Egypt is lucky that Egyptians aren't that violent compared to places where similar revolutions took place.”

Tahrir reprise throws down gauntlet to Egypt army


The chants, tear gas and violence emanating from Cairo’s Tahrir Square evoke the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Protesters talk of a fight to the death with the ruling military council, whose entire transition plan looks shakier than ever.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces may take some comfort from the scale of the protests, which in the past four days have yet to attract the hundreds of thousands who turned out against Mubarak in January and February.

Yet activists resisting efforts to dislodge them from Tahrir are voicing defiance reminiscent of the height of the 18-day uprising that unseated Egypt’s longtime ruler.

Their passions inflamed by the deaths of at least 33 people since Saturday, they show no signs of leaving. There are calls for a bigger protest on Tuesday. A protracted standoff could put at risk elections planned to begin on November 28.

On Monday, crowds chanted “the people want the downfall of the regime,” the main refrain of the anti-Mubarak protest. Some said they were ready to die for their cause, sentiments also often heard during demonstrations in February.

And there were flashes of the volunteer spirit that was vital to the successful uprising against Mubarak.

Youths on motor bikes ferried those wounded in clashes with the security forces to makeshift clinics. Others formed human corridors to clear the way. Medics treated the casualties on the pavement, while volunteers swept away rubbish.

It wasn’t the first time the spirit of the original uprising had returned. Large protests in July are widely credited with prompting the military council to put Mubarak on trial.

What sets this protest apart is the level of the bloodshed blamed on the security forces, which could inflame unrest, just as it did in the last days of the Mubarak era.

“A LOT OF KILLING”

“I came because I saw the situation on the TV. There’s a lot of killing,” said Hussam Mohammad, a 22-year-old history student, among a crowd that had grown from thousands to tens of thousands by late afternoon.

“The thing you can take from all of this is that revolution is still going on. It reminds me exactly of January 25,” he said, referring to the day the anti-Mubarak protests erupted.

Among the Tahrir Square activists, anger has mounted over the way the ruling military council has governed Egypt. The protesters believe the generals are trying to hold onto power and privilege, undermining hopes for real democratic change.

“If people go home now, the whole revolution will have been for nothing,” said Abdou Kassem, a youth activist who had been leading the chants atop the shoulders of other demonstrators.

He pulled from his pocket a bird shot pellet which he said security forces had fired at demonstrators. “Morale is very high,” he smiled, pointing out wounds to his face and leg.

Tuesday’s turnout will likely help shape the military’s next step. A poor showing could encourage it to try to clear the square by force. A large crowd may deter a harsh crackdown.

Not all the Egyptians in the square on Monday were there to protest. As always, some were there merely to watch. Others were urging the protesters to go home. Others, on the fringes, played a more sinister role, provoking violence or looting buildings.

While the activists are confident of popular support for their street action, beyond Tahrir there is more doubt.

Some Egyptians say the activists should be more patient and give respite to an economy battered by a year of political turmoil. They see the elections for a new legislature due to start on November 28 as the first step on the road toward the return of civilian government promised by the military.

“The silent majority now are not the same as the silent majority of January 25. Now, they are not with the Tahrir crowd. Why? Because there are positive steps being implemented,” said Mustafa Ibrahim, 31, from the town of Tanta north of Cairo.

“They must be patient,” he said.

Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alistair Lyon

Israel moves to ease strains with Egypt


Israel offered on Thursday to investigate jointly with Egypt the killing of five Egyptian security personnel during an Israeli operation against cross-border raiders a week ago, violence that has strained relations with Cairo’s new rulers.

“Israel is ready to hold a joint investigation with the Egyptians into the difficult event,” a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office quoted his national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, as saying.

Amidror said the terms of such a probe “would be set by the armies of both sides”, going a step beyond Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s earlier pledge to hold an investigation and share its findings with Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

While Israel moved to ease tensions with Egypt, it mounted further attacks against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, where more than 20 rockets have been launched at southern Israel since Wednesday despite a truce announced on Monday.

Five Palestinians, including a local commander of the Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza Strip, have been killed in the latest bloodshed.

The surge of violence began on Aug. 18 when gunmen who Israel said had infiltrated from the Gaza Strip via Egypt’s neighbouring Sinai desert killed eight Israelis on a desert border road.

Seven of the attackers were killed by Israeli forces and Egypt said five of its men died in the crossfire. The incident triggered the most serious diplomatic row with Egypt since a popular revolt overthrew Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip threatens to unravel the shaky truce mediated by Egypt and the United Nations.

U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry, in a written statement, expressed his “deep concern” and called on all sides “to immediately take steps to prevent any further escalation”.

Taher al-Nono, a Hamas spokesman, said any “understanding for calm must be mutual and we will not accept that Israel continues its killing of our people”.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Editing by Jeffrey Heller

Mubarak resigns, army assumes power [LIVE VIDEO]


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and the military has assumed power.

Omar Suleiman, appointed vice president by Mubarak last week in a bid to quell burgeoning protests, made the announcement on state TV Friday and said that power had transferred to the military’s Supreme Council.

Cheers erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of the protests, after the announcement, but how and whether the military transitions to democracy remains to be seen.

The military is seen as more trusted by Egyptians than the police, which Mubarak had used in an attempt to crush the protests launched Jan. 25.

Western analysts had hoped the military would play a role in the transition because of its closeness to the United States and its cordial relations with Israel.

Presidential elections are due in September.

Mubarak left Cairo for his home in the Sinai resort of Shaem El Sheik.

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announces Mubarak’s resignation:

Video from CNN.

HAARETZ reports:

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters waved flags, cried, cheered and embraced in celebration when the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak was announced.

“The people have brought down the regime,” chanted the crowds in Tahrir Square.

read more at HAARETZ.com.