The Egyptian police appeared to have postponed once again their threat to begin choking off two Cairo sit-ins on Monday, where tens of thousands have gathered to protest the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi, leaving in place a tense six-week-old stand-off.
The new military-appointed government has promised for more than a week to use all necessary force to clear out the sit-ins, which were established by Dr Mursi’s Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood upon his ouster on July 3. But until now, external pressure from Western powers and internal dissent from liberal cabinet ministers appears to have persuaded General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the officer who ordered the takeover, to hold off decisive action.
As the sun rose over the main sit-in site on Monday, a small group of Mursi supporters who had gathered by makeshift barricades, breathed a sigh of relief.
Interior Ministry officials said on Sunday night that they would begin clearing out the sit-ins as early as dawn. Human rights advocates said that could lead to the loss of dozens of lives, in part, they say, because the Egyptian police are incapable of a gradual escalation – especially if they meet any friction or resistance.
”If the Egyptian police managed to intervene using responsible, proportionate force, it would be the first time,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah, a criminal justice researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. ”I don’t think they have the capacity to do that,” he said, adding that the police killed at least 140 Mursi supporters at smaller demonstrations in the weeks since his ouster. ”I will be surprised if it did not start another round of lethal violence.”
Interior Ministry officials said on Sunday that they would move in gradually to surround the sit-ins to cut off any shipments of food and water. The officials said they would block any entrance but leave one exit open so that demonstrators could leave at will.
New York Times
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