Egyptian soldiers guarding Egypt-Gaza border
Egyptian soldiers guarding Egypt-Gaza borderFlash 90

Egypt’s armed forces intervened to overthrow former President Mohammed Morsi to avoid a “civil war,” army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi said on Monday.

Sissi, who also serves as Egypt’s Defense Minister, made the comments in an interview with the Arabic daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. The comments were translated by Al Arabiya.

“The army’s move was dictated by the national interest and national security necessities and the anticipation that the country would reach a civil war within two months if the situation we were at continued,” he said.

Sissi told the newspaper he spoke with Morsi before the riots which led to his removal and asked him to present an initiative and make concessions to resolve the political deadlock.

“The truth is that I wanted to give an opportunity for former president to change his position and save his face,” Sissi said, adding he favored a political solution to any direct military intervention.

“I stressed that there were very very serious dangers in the idea of a coup and that the appropriate and the best is to reach any change through ballot boxes and this was after several attempt for reform,” he said.

Sissi said he gave a week-long ultimatum for the political forces to reach an agreement prior to June 30 and after that he made another ultimatum, for 48 hours. When that ended without compromise, the army intervened to overthrow Morsi on July 3 and announced a political roadmap.

Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 2,000 arrested in a police crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement since August 14, when police forcibly dispersed two protest camps that were set up in Cairo.

Since August, Egypt's authorities have rounded up dozens of senior leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, including the movement’s Supreme Guide, leaving the group unable to rally huge crowds to protest for Morsi's reinstatement.

Since Morsi’s removal, the Egyptian army has also been engaged in an offensive against terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula.

The terrorists in the restive Sinai have been fighting back. On Monday, a massive explosion hit security headquarters in a southern Sinai town, killing two people and injuring 25.