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Egypt Tensions Soar as Army Encircles Pro-Morsi Sit-Ins

Egypt is again on the verge of political violence as military vows to crush encampments and Muslim Brotherhood calls for new marches

Jon Queally, staff writer

The streets of Cairo were again on edge Monday as dawn broke with expectations that encampments held by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi would face the wrath of the military council and its chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has repeatedly called for the sit-ins to be cleared.

Though clashes were not yet underway and the sit-ins remained peaceful, reports indicate that the military was following through with plans to circle the camps and was setting up check points in an effort to cut of supplies moving into the areas where they are being held.

However, the Associated Press reports the military's plan to fully "disperse" the camps has been postponed following details of the plan being leaked to the press:

An Egyptian security official says authorities have postponed a move to disperse two sit-ins by supporters of the country's ousted president to "avoid bloodshed."

The official says the decision to postpone an advance against the protest camps by Muslim Brotherhood supporters came after a plan on ending the sit-ins was leaked to the media.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Backers of Morsi, mostly drawn from members of the Muslim Brotherhood, have vowed not to be moved and claim their right to speak out against Morsi's ouster last month as a clear example of a military coup.

As Reuters notes, almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since Morsi's overthrow, including well over one hundred of his supporters shot dead in two separate incidents where army and security officials fired on Muslim Brotherhood protests.

Reports indicate that the current threats and warnings by the army had given those participating in the sit-ins time to fortify their positions, while some efforts were reported to be underway to avoid what many see as an inevitable return to violence.

As Al-Jazeera reports:

The pro-Morsi camps are the main flashpoints in the confrontation between the army, which toppled Morsi on July 3, and the ousted president's supporters who demand his reinstatement.


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Gamal Heshmat, a senior leader in Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, said any attempt to besiege the sit-ins would amount to a "crime".

"This is a sit-in for all of the sons of Egypt and any attempt to place a siege on it or to impose a slow death by cutting off water or food or electricity is a crime, and anyone responsible will be held accountable," he said.

"Also any attack or the killing of Egyptians on the basis of political differences as is happening now by the police and army also will be punished, and could ignite all of Egypt."

Reuters reports that "a pro-Morsi grouping, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood," were not only making preparations inside their sit-in encampments, but also called on public marches to counter the military's threats:

The alliance calls on the people of Egypt in all provinces to go out on marches on Monday and gather everywhere," it said in a statement.

Security sources and a government official had said police would begin operations against the two sit-ins early on Monday to end a six-week-old street standoff between crowds demanding Morsi's reinstatement and the army-installed government.

Western and Arab envoys and some senior Egyptian government officials have pressed the army to avoid using force as it tries to end the crisis in the troubled Arab nation of 84 million.

Morsi's defiant supporters have fortified the protest camps with sandbags and piles of rocks in anticipation of a crackdown.

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