The Egyptian military opened fire on a crowd of unruly Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators who had staged a protest outside a military headquarters Monday, killing at least forty and wounding many others. In response, the country’s other major Islamic party, Nour, withdrew from negotiations over a transitional government, calling the shootings a “massacre.” The military said soldiers were attacked by a “terrorist group.”
Demonstrators said that soldiers in uniform had fired tear gas, but plainclothes operatives–known in Cairo colloquially as “thugs,” the same type of operatives that had accosted a CNN camera crew last week–had fired bullets directly into the crowd. Protests have continued after last week’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has been detained along with hundreds of his fellow party members.
The Obama administration remains unsure how to respond. President Barack Obama’s initial statement urged a return to democracy but did not call Morsi’s removal by the military a “coup,” while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for military aid to Egypt to be suspended. NATO ally Turkey has condemned the coup, while Iran welcomed the coup, blaming it on Egypt’s continued peace with Israel and alliance with the U.S.
The only significant comment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to praise the border fence that Israel has recently erected along its boundary with Egypt in the Sinai desert. Israel has remained skeptical of the political changes in the Arab Spring, watching as the Arab world, which often condemns Israel for alleged abuses against Palestinians, reacts to protests and rebellions with extreme cruelty.