Egyptian Protesters Braced for Further Clashes

As of yet, the army's promised crackdown has not materialized, but protesters aren't taking any chances.

Ari Soffer ,

Supporters of Muhammed Morsi, 7th August 2013
Supporters of Muhammed Morsi, 7th August 2013

Thousands of supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi are bracing themselves for a renewed push to clear their protest camps by the interim government.

Protests - sometimes violent - have been ongoing since Morsi's removal by the military on July 3rd, with his primarily Islamist supporters demanding his reinstatement and rejecting the legitimacy of the current interim government led by military commander Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Many of the demonstrators are camped out in eastern and western Cairo, outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and in Nahda Square, respectively.

At least 250 people have been killed in latest unrest, more than half of them supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which has promised further bloodshed if Morsi is not reinstated.

Speaking on Sunday, an Egyptian interior ministry spokesperson said that security forces would begin clearing the protest camps early Monday morning. In an interview with the BBC, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi adding that such protests could not continue "endlessly."

“Law and order has to be in place, and people need to be able to have access to their homes and work and so on. Ultimately this situation has to be resolved very soon,” he said.

In response, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement condemning what they termed as "coup-makers" for attempting to prevent them from "peacefully protesting," and invited human rights groups to visit their protest camps to monitor the situation.

But as of early afternoon there was still no sign of any security operation.

The army's announcement that it intends to clear the encampments by force signals the failure of weeks of European Union and American attempts at fostering dialogue between the interim government and supporters of Mohammed Morsi.

Protesters are taking no chances - stockpiling gas masks in anticipation of police firing tear-gas, and setting up regular patrols armed with clubs and other makeshift weapons.

Speaking to Reuters one protester made his views clear:

"We are staying and are psychologically prepared for anything."

Surprise appearance

On Thursday, Naglaa Morsi, the wife of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, made a surprise appearance at a rally in support of her husband.

Naglaa told the crowds that her husband would return to power. “He is coming back, if Allah wills it,” she declared.

Morsi’s supporters chanted, “Returning! Returning!” in response.

Thursday night was the first time Naglaa had been seen since Morsi’s ouster. She did not address rumors that she had been held in custody alongside her husband.

Morsi’s children were at the rally as well, and called for their father’s release from prison. Morsi has been held in an undisclosed location since the July 3 military coup.

He faces charges of working with the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas to stage an attack on an Egyptian prison that killed Egyptian guards and freed dozens of members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group.

Leaders of the new interim government say they plan to hold new elections in nine months, but as things stand they look unlikely to achieve that target.

Meanwhile, the sides are bracing themselves for the next round of confrontations.