The Egyptian government began clearing large pro-Muslim Brotherhood tent-camp demonstrations out of two Cairo squares today, the Wall Street Journal reports. Shooting was reported by military sources on the scene, and protestors claimed that as many as one hundred people had died, but those claims could not yet be verified.
The demonstrations had begun months ago during the protests that led to the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, and intensified in the weeks thereafter, following the military coup that removed Morsi and installed a transitional government under Adly Mansour, formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
The Obama administration had not yet commented on the clearance of the tent camps at the time of writing. After first supporting, then abandoning former President Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 protests that led to the fall of his government, President Barack Obama had supported the Morsi government after democratic elections in 2012.
That support continued despite subsequent authoritarian behavior by the Morsi regime, and U.S. diplomats discouraged the public demonstrations that set the stage for the coup. Efforts by the administration to discourage the Egyptian military from carrying out a coup were unsuccessful, and ties with the new Egyptian government remain frayed.
The Journal reports:
Images from state television and provided by the Brotherhood’s press office showed smoke filling the air, helicopters circling the sky, government snipers on roofs and scores of protestors lined up against cars as they were arrested by police. They also showed bloody bodies being taken into a Brotherhood field hospital…The Egyptian army blocked reporters from going to the scene, violating earlier promises the police made to invite the press and human rights activists to observe the clearing of the sit-ins, and concerns of police brutality.
Gunshots were heard, and one soldier was quoted as saying: “Everyone is shooting at everyone.”
In spite of the unrest, the Egyptian government has continued security cooperation with Israel against terrorist groups operating near the two countries’ border in the Sinai peninsula. Earlier in the week, the Israeli Iron Dome missile system, which is partly funded by the U.S., intercepted and destroyed a rocket fired from the Sinai at the Red Sea port city of Eilat.