Tanks deploy to Egypt's presidential palace amid lull in deadly protests
The deployment of Egyptian tanks marks the first time since Mohamed Morsi's power grab that the military has gotten involved.
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Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor. He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog. He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.
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After a night of violent protests across Egypt that left at least five dead and hundreds injured, Egyptian tanks deployed this morning to protect the presidential palace, marking the first time since Mohamed Morsi's power grab that the military has gotten involved.
Reuters reports that at least seven tanks and 10 armored personnel carriers from the Republican Guard, the military unit tasked with protecting the government organs, now surround the palace. The Republican Guard is ordering all demonstrators to leave the palace environs. The unit's commander, Gen. Mohamed Zaki, told the state news agency that "The armed forces, and at the forefront of them the Republican Guard, will not be used as a tool to oppress the demonstrators."
Reuters notes that small numbers of protesters against and supporters of President Morsi remain in the area around the palace, but have largely been limited to shouting at each other from afar.
The lull stands in sharp contrast to last night, when thousands of Egyptians from both sides took to the streets and engaged in violent clashes, resulting in several deaths – Agence France-Presse reports that five people were killed, while Reuters puts the toll at seven – and hundreds of injuries. The Monitor reported last night that protesters and supporters clashed with rocks, firebombs, and the occasional gun around the palace, in a conflict that both sides see as an extension of the Tahrir Square protests last year that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
Pavement is broken up into makeshift missiles, Molotov cocktails are thrown, and fireworks are fired horizontally at the other side. At one point, a protester runs through the anti-Morsi crowd shooting in the air with a handgun. The pro-Morsi crowd appears to be firing teargas canisters, something usually reserved for the police forces....
There is nothing uplifting about the mood here tonight, which seems eons away from the jubilant crowds in Tahrir on Feb. 11, 2011, the night Mubarak stepped down. Just before the fighting started, the crowd beat up a salafi passerby (a conservative Muslim), despite his protestations that he was “not with the Brotherhood.” A minivan stuck in traffic was attacked on the suspicion that it was carrying Muslim Brotherhood supporters.