Protesters wear masks of Morsi and other Egyp
Protesters wear masks of Morsi and other EgypAFP file

As gas and electricity shortages mount in Egypt, millions are expected to take to the streets this weekend to demand the resignation of the administration of Mohammed Morsi. In response, Islamist supporters of Morsi are preparing for battle, forming “vigilante justice groups” to deal with lawbreakers who “threaten state facilities” and “incite violence,” Egyptian media reports said.

June 30, the scheduled date for the largest protest, to take place in Cairo's Tahrir Square, is the one year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration. Since then, protesters say, the Egyptian economy has gone from bad to worse. The increasing influence of Islamic fundamentalism inspired by Morsi, the leader of a party associated with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, has done an excellent job of keeping tourists away from Egypt, denying the country one of its most important sources of hard currency.

Meanwhile, the lack of income has prevented the country from buying enough of a wide range of commodities, from oil to flour. As a result, shortages of nearly every basic item have become endemic in the nation of more than 80 million inhabitants.

Morsi and his ministers have given reasons for all the shortages, mostly blaming them on bureaucratic snafus. In a speech Wednesday night, Morsi appealed for calm, saying that if parties felt that he was not the right man for the job, they should form a new coalition that will oust him. Morsi said, however, that no violence will be tolerated, and that he had instructed security forces to “take all steps to defend the country” from the violence of protesters.

Israeli officials were watching the situation in Egypt closely, out of concern that the tensions between Islamists and their opposition groups could break out in violent clashes in Palestinian Authority-controlled cities.

In many PA cities, especially in Samaria, Hamas, closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, is far more popular than Fatah, although the institutions are controlled by Fatah member bureaucrats. Given the ongoing tension between the two PA terror groups, “it's possible that the feud, which is always boiling under the surface, could come to the fore, with violence breaking out between the groups. That's exactly what happened in Gaza,” said one Israeli defense official.