July 6, 2013 – EGYPT – Two days after Egypt’s military replaced the country’s president, it sent soldiers into the streets to quell demonstrations, as a week of tensions between Islamists and the military transformed into deadly confrontations that heightened some Egyptians’ fears of civil war. Demonstrations turned bloody Friday as hundreds of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters turned out to protest this week’s military-led ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. Muslim Brotherhood officials said police opened fire on protesters in the Cairo suburb where Mr. Morsi and 12 aides were being held under house arrest, killing five people. The military denied those allegations. Later in the day, armored personnel carriers arrived on the October 6 bridge, near Tahrir Square, to restore order after rival camps clashed with rocks, fireworks and, according to several witnesses, gunfire from automatic weapons. At least 30 people died in violence across the country, with another 1,076 injured, officials said. The street-level military intervention was a rare occurrence in more than two years of turmoil since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak—but it echoed a dominant Egyptian theme of Mr. Mubarak’s long reign, one of a military-backed state pitted against Islamists. Such fears were renewed late Friday as state television confirmed the arrest of Khairat El Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s influential second-in-command. Earlier Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader addressed tens of thousands of supporters who gathered for “Rejection Friday” protests, urging them to continue protesting until Mr. Morsi is reinstated.
“We will protect our president Morsi with our necks. We are all willing to sacrifice our necks and souls for him,” Brotherhood General Guide Mohammed Badie told hundreds of thousands of demonstrators at Cairo’s Rabaa Mosque. While he vowed peaceful protests, Mr. Badie also promised a standoff with the military, saying: “Your role is to protect our borders. Our role, however, is to bring back our president Morsi to his post.” That poses a particular challenge to Egypt’s military, which has said it responded to overwhelming public will in removing Mr. Morsi. In 29 months since Egyptians overthrew longtime leader Mr. Mubarak, the military has stood aside as street-level violence claimed thousands of lives. The military’s unparalleled position in Egypt’s public life is a result, in part, of the perception that it is a dispassionate defender of the country’s broad public. The military made that face particularly visible in recent days, sending its jets into the sky above the fray—flying triumphal missions that left contrails in the shape of hearts, or the colors of the Egyptian flag, above Cairo. But in intervening directly as jilted Islamists demanded Mr. Morsi’s reinstatement, the military runs the risk of being seen as siding against Islamists and vindicating many Egyptians’ fears of an impending civil war. –WSJ