Top News: Obama Halts Delivery of F-16s to Egypt Given ‘Current Situation’

President Barack Obama has decided to halt the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt for an undetermined period due to the “current situation” on the ground there, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. The delay was the first direct action the United States has taken since the Egyptian military ousted Morsi and installed a new civilian government. 


Egypt’s presidency and government calls for protests against ‘terrorism’ 
Egyptian presidential media advisor Ahmed al-Muslimani stated on Wednesday that the presidency is urging citizens to take the streets on Friday to support calls for combating terrorism. He added that, “We call on demonstrators to maintain the peaceful and the state alone is responsible for security.” Protests against terrorism on Friday are not intended to give the army free rein to clamp down on certain groups in society, army spokesperson Ahmed Ali has said. The speech, in which defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for mass protests to allow the army to “confront violence and terrorism,” was only concerned with national security, Ali said in a post on his official Facebook page. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi held a news conference on Thursday afternoon in which he assured that Sisi’s call for protests to support the military on Friday was by no means an incitement to violence. He added that the protection of all protesters was the responsibility of the government, including those at Raba’a al-Adaweya. Attendees of the national reconciliation meeting have stressed on the need to take action against “violence and terrorism,” Egypt’s presidency announced in a statement released on Wednesday night. 

Police said they were planning massive reinforcements to secure Friday’s rallies, which raise the prospect of further bloodshed between Islamists demanding Morsi’s reinstatement and an array of opponents including the military. Mohamed Ibrahim, the minister of interior, announced that the protests would be under the full protection and umbrella of the ministry. Meanwhile, a highly informed official source told Ahram Online that “all state bodies, not excluding the military” are willing to find a “reasonable” way out of the current political crisis of “the last few months.” Speaking on strict conditions of anonymity, the source said that “pressure has been accumulating and things have to come to an end.” He explained that pressure includes what he qualified as “instigated terror attacks” on military and civilian targets at Sinai.

Several political groups have announced their support of the protests on Friday. The Free Egyptian Party announced their support of the protests and their unity with the people, the military and the police forces. The Alexandrian branch of the June 30 Front also announced their support of protecting the revolution and demanding the arrests of those who commit acts of terrorism. In Menoufiya, a campaign was organized to collect signatures in the towns and villages to show support and give the military the mandate to confront terrorism. [EGYNews (Arabic), Egypt Independent, Reuters, 7/25/2013]

Islamist parties condemn Sisi’s call to protest
Representatives of the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy (NCSL) condemned General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s call for demonstrations on Friday and accused him of inviting a “civil war” in a press conference on Wednesday. They accused him of being like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for asking for a mandate to combat ‘terrorism.’ The Salafi Nour Party also expressed fears that the calls to protest on Friday could lead to civil war. The party also called for a reconciliation meeting to be held. The party statement added, “The state does not need a mandate to perform its duty as long as it is within the boundaries of the law.” The Strong Egypt Party, led by former Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh said on Wednesday said that the call for rallies risks triggering violence, urging the military to row back for the sake of peace. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood‘s leader, Mohamed Badie, on Thursday made an unusually harsh attack on Egypt’s military chief, saying his ouster of President Mohamed Morsi was a worse crime than even destroying the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine. He called on his followers to take to the streets and defend “the revolution” from the military. Brotherhood leader Essam al-Erian also claimed that a majority of Egyptians are the “military coup” that ousted Morsi. He also criticized Sisi, describing him as “a leader of a coup that kills women, children and those at prayer.” Brotherhood member Mohamed al-Beltagy also said that Sisi’s speech was tantamount to a call for civil war. The Salafi Watan Party also criticized Sisi, saying that his call should be seen as a protest to incite more killing. [DNE, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 7/24/2013]

Also of Interest:
Transportation minister takes on weighty legacy | DNE
Special report: How the Muslim Brotherhood lost Egypt | Egypt Independent
Dostour Party announces ‘rescue plan’ to avoid violent clashes in Egypt | Ahram (Arabic)
Nour Party: Army initiative could have kept Morsi in power | Egypt Independent
Strong Egypt Party members submit collective resignations | Egypt Independent, EGYNews (Arabic)


Prosecution orders arrest of nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders
Egypt’s prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat ordered on Wednesday the arrest of nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders and allies of the group for inciting violence in Qalyubiya. The defendants are accused of directly mobilizing armed groups in Qalyubiya, with the intention of “spreading chaos, disturbing security and harming the public interest.” Those issued with arrest warrants include Salafist preacher Safwat Hegazy, former MP Mohamed al-Beltagy, Salafist preacher Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, member of the Brotherhood’s supreme guidance bureau Abdel Rahman al-Bar, former Minister of Supply Bassem Ouda and former Minister of Youth Osama Yassin, as well as Muslim Brotherhood members Gamal Abdel Hady and Abdallah Barakat. Meanwhile, a judge on Wednesday rejected an appeal for the release of suspects detained at clashes outside the Guidance Bureau headquarters. The twenty-eight suspects are accused of firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters from within the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam on June 30. A military court in Suez also sentenced eight supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi to two years in prison with labor on Wednesday on charges of attacking army forces during confrontations on July 5. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, DNE, 7/24/2013]

Bagato reinstated as SCC judge by presidential order
Interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree reinstating Hatem Bagato to his position as head of advisory board of the Supreme Constitutional Court. Bagato served briefly as Hisham Qandil’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, before resigning on July 2, one day before Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s removal of former President Mohamed Morsi. Bagato will swear his oath before the courts at the end of the month. [Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 7/25/2013]

Also of Interest:
Abu Islam appeal postponed to September 19 | EGYNews (Arabic)
Former Shura speaker accused of corruption | Egypt Independent, EGYNews (Arabic)
Judges Club suspends membership of seventy-five pro-Morsi judges | EGYNews (Arabic)
Prosecution refers an Egyptian and two Israelis to criminal court on charges of espionage | Shorouk (Arabic)


Egypt buys additional 240,000 tons of overseas wheat
Egypt bought 240,000 tons of wheat from Romania, Ukraine and Russia. The shipments are expected to be received between September 1 and 10, the General Authority for Supply Commodities reported on Wednesday. Last week, Egypt’s new government had imported 300,000 tons of wheat from the same countries, to be delivered between August 21 and 31. The resumption of wheat-buying comes after the fall of president Mohamed Morsi, whose government had halted wheat imports in February betting instead on increased domestic production. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 7/24/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt’s wheat problem: How Morsi jeopardized the bread supply | Reuters
Price drops, ad campaigns now the lifeline for Egypt’s electronics markets | DNE
Egypt’s biggest steel producer sees LE202mn net profit in Q1/2013 | Ahram Online
Emirati group to invest in Egypt | DNE
EGX30 plummets following defense minister’s speech | DNE, Egypt Independent
Moody’s maintains negative outlook on Egypt | DNE


Friday protests planned in support of Sisi’s call to counter terrorism

Following Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s call for protest on Friday, rallies have been planned across Egypt, around Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Zagazig, Kafr al-Sheikh, Damanhour, Damietta, Fayoum, Minya, Assiut, Qena and Sohag. The Egyptian Trade Union Federation has announced the participation of five million workers in Friday’s protests called for by Sisi to authorize the armed forces to fight terrorism. The union, which has five million members, said all of its trade unions, syndicate committees, and local unions across all governorates will take part in the demonstrations. Egypt’s churches have also welcomed the call for mass rallies in support of the army. A number of satellite channels, including CBC, Dream TV, al-Hayah, al-Mehwar, al-Qaqera Wel Nas, OnTV, Tahrir TV and MBC Masr, have announced that their entertainment programming on Friday will be cancelled to cover expected mass pro-army demonstrations. Meanwhile, the health ministry is preparing for the Friday protests, with 1,979 ambulances at the ready. [Egypt Independent, Shorouk (Arabic), Ahram Online, EGYNews (Arabic), Egypt Independent, 7/25/2013]

Marches planned for July 26 to counter Sisi’s speech
The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) on Wednesday afternoon announced a total of thirty-five marches on Friday, to counter the call by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for Egyptians to take to the streets in order to authorize the army to “confront terrorism.” In a statement that appeared on the official FJP page, the marches, under the slogan of “the people want to overthrow the coup” are expected to begin after Friday prayers from a number of locations in downtown Cairo, Mohandessin, Kit-Kat, Salah Salem, Ain Shams and Nasr City.The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition, also organized marches on Wednesday in Luxor calling for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, Ahram’s Arabic website reported. Dozens of Morsi loyalists in Alexandria staged on Wednesday evening a silent stand as a first response to Sisi’s speech calling for Friday protests.

Also of Interest:
Rights group: Al Shorouk bans article by anti-army writer | Mada Masr
Brotherhood is accused of falsely claiming ‘martyr’ | Mada Masr


More rival clashes across Egypt
Clashes have continued to break out between residents and supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt’s governorates. Clashes in Mounifeya left ten injured, while clashes in Damietta left fifty-nine injured, four in critical condition. In Damietta, clashes erupted after locals attempted to stop a march of Morsi’s supporters from moving in front of al-Bahr mosque. Five people were injured in confrontations between Morsi supporters and opponents in Tanta. Clashes erupted in Cairo in Shubra on Tuesday as Morsi’s supporters marched to Raba’a al-Adaweya, killing one and injuring dozens. According to a makeshift hospital in Raba’a, protester Mahmoud Mostafa Fouad, nineteen, from Sharqiya was killed. A Raba’a field hospital doctor was also arrested on charges of abducting and torturing a police officer. Meanwhile, Morsi’s supporters allegedly poured car oil on the main bridge leading to the Cairo International Airport on Thursday morning, crippling traffic for several hours. Two bodies bearing signs of torture were found near al-Nahda Square, a few meters from Cairo University, where Morsi supporters have been staging a sit-in demanding his reinstatement, according to a security source. [DNE, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, EGYNews (Arabic), 7/25/2013]

Two Egyptian soldiers, three militants killed in Sinai car bombing
A car bomb exploded near a police training centre in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, state television reported on Wednesday, saying that three terrorists died in the blast. Two Egyptian soldiers were also killed in the blast. The incident marks the first car bomb explosion in the region since President Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow on July 3. A conscript was killed and another was injured in two live ammunition attacks by unknown gunmen on the Abu Sukr checkpoint and al-Zuhur checkpoints in Arish on Wednesday. Mohamed Khamis Abdel Nabi, twenty-three, died Wednesday evening after being shot in the head. Unknown assailants also opened fire on an army truck parked by the Sheikh Zuweid Hospital on Wednesday, causing no casualties. Unknown gunmen also fired on the security checkpoint at al-Reesa on the Arish-Rafah international road marking the 44th attack on the position amid escalating violence in the region. No casualties were reported. A Central Security Forces (CSF) soldier was injured Thursday during an attack in Rafah, North Sinai. Security sources said the soldier, named as twenty-two-year-old Amir Ragab Mohamed, was shot by gunmen at the CSF camp in al-Ahrash area of Rafah. [Reuters, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Shorouk (Arabic), 7/25/2013]

Also of Interest:
‘TNT bomb’ caused Egypt’s Mansoura explosion | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
Army spokesperson: Weapons cache seized on western border | Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya


Obama halts delivery of F-16s to Egypt given ‘current situation’
President Barack Obama has decided to halt the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt for an undetermined period due to the “current situation” on the ground there, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. The delay was the first direct action the United States has taken since the Egyptian military ousted Morsi and installed a new civilian government. Under US law, military aid to a country that underwent a coup d’etat must be suspended. But the Obama administration says it is still trying to determine if what happened three weeks ago in Egypt was in fact a coup. “Given the current situation in Egypt, we do not believe it is appropriate to move forward at this time with the delivery of F-16s,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters, adding Obama’s decision was made with the unanimous consent of his entire national security team. The United States on Wednesday voiced concern that a call by Egypt’s army chief for rallies in his support could trigger more violence and instability in the country. Washington said any demonstrations should be peaceful and that Egypt’s interim leaders, in place since the toppling of president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, must remain focused on moving towards elections. “Secretary of State Kerry spoke yesterday with interim Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy. He also spoke with interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei. That was actually a call that happened yesterday as well,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. However, Kerry expressed concern about the “levels of arrests and crackdown on the media,” agreeing to be on “regular touch” throughout the transitional process. Psaki concluded her statement on Egypt by saying that the hastening of Egypt’s return to a democratically elected government is the US main concern in the meantime. [Reuters, AP, DNE, Egypt Independent, EGYNews (Arabic), Mada Masr, 7/24/2013]

HRW calls on Egypt to respect rights of Syrian refugees
Egyptian authorities need to stop arbitrarily detaining Syrians, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a Thursday press release. The military and police in Egypt have arrested at least seventy-two Syrian men and nine boys at checkpoints throughout Cairo on June 19 and 20, according to HRW. Of the eighty-one detained Syrians that remain in custody, at least nine have valid visas or residence permits and have not been charged with a crime. The Egyptian government, following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, a staunch supporter of the Syrian revolution against Bashar al-Assad, adopted stricter measures concerning the provision of visas and residencies to Syrian refugees fleeing the armed conflict back home. It said the measures, which required Syrians to obtain visas and prior security approval to enter Egypt, rather than passports alone, were temporary and introduced in the interests of security. “The Egyptian authorities should uphold their obligations to Syrian asylum seekers under international law,” Houry said. “That starts with ensuring that the security services immediately end their campaign of picking up Syrians on the streets and threatening them with summary deportation.” [DNE, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 7/25/2013]

Also of Interest:
Hamas accuses Fatah of turning Egyptian media against it | Egypt Independent

Image: Barack Obama speaking in Berlin, 2008. (photo: Flickr user Matt Ortega)