On the eve of June 30th, President Mohamed Morsi’s one-year’s anniversary in office, millions are expected to storm the streets of Egypt’s cities, and after a weekend that saw at least 8 killed, including a Jewish-American student, and with President Morsi and his family hauled out of the presidential palace into a protective compound – Al Ahram is saying that all eyes are turned to the Army to take matters into its hands, at least temporarily.
The army has moved troops near Egypt’s major cities, to be in a position to offer support to the police in putting down violence.
The Tamarod (‘Rebel’), a signature drive calling on President Mohamed Morsi to step down, claims to have gathered more than 22 million signatures.
Egypt is anticipating its biggest wave of protests since the January 25 Revolution on Sunday, with the demonstrators this time calling for the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi to step down and for early presidential elections. The liberal and leftist groups are preparing for a face-off with the president.
Islamist forces are staging a sit-in—since Friday—at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City, in support of Morsi. They held a similar rally last week, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
Fierce clashes broke out in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, often ending in clashes between the president’s supporters and opponents.
Muslim Brotherhood offices across Egypt have been set on fire. The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, strongly condemned attacks.
“Our members who were present in our provincial offices were committed to total peacefulness when they were abruptly attacked with guns, swords and petrol bombs by [Mubarak's defunct National Democratic Party] thugs as well as other infiltrators who are given political cover by [opposition umbrella] the National Salvation Front and [anti-Morsi signature drive] Rebel campaign,” read a statement released by the party Friday night.
Violent clashes erupted between Morsi supporters and opponents Friday afternoon in the Alexandria district of Sidi Gaber. The Egyptian Ministry of Health reported two dead. The FJP’s office was set on fire.
Also on Friday, tens of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters gathered in several parts of Cairo and marched to Tahrir Square – the flashpoint of Egypt’s revolution.
As the entire country is about to be yanked through violence the likes of which it hasn’t seen in over a year, only the army is able to restore law and order.
In a speech Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi gave last Sunday, he signaled that the army could step forward again to play a role in the political process at this critical juncture. “With this speech, General El-Sisi has presented himself as an alternative for the near future,” Former deputy chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service (GIS) General Hossam Kheirallah told Al Ahram. “Without going overboard in praise, his speech reflects many virtues in his character. He is the only person who succeeded in bringing his institution [the army] back from the brink of disaster in a state in which virtually everything else had collapsed within the space of a year.”
“The army, at present, no longer feels confident that the current political entities are capable of realizing the ambitions of the people and that the army will have to step in sooner or later,” El-Sisi said in his speech.
It is unknown just how well armed the demonstrators are going to be on Sunday. So far, there have been reports of weapons getting into the hands of civilians, so much so that Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta, the main authority that issues Islamic fatwas (religious edicts), said on Saturday that carrying weapons during demonstrations is religiously wrong because it runs the risk of killing, which is punishable by God.