The Egyptian army deployed tanks to the presidential palace overnight to break up protests after violent clashes between supporters of President Mohamed Morsi and opponents killed an estimated five people and injured about 450 others. Egypt's Republican Guard deployed tanks and armored vehicles on Thursday ordering tens of thousands of demonstrators to disperse. The Commander of the Guard, General Mohamed Zaki, said that the forces were deployed to separate rival protesters, not repress the demonstrators. After clashes throughout the night, conditions calmed considerably during the morning, other than a short period of rock throwing between the hundreds of Islamists and dozens of Morsi opponents who remained in front of the palace. Unrest in Egypt was sparked by a November 22 presidential decree expanding Morsi's powers as well as a controversial draft constitution set to come to a referendum on December 15. Clashes also erupted Wednesday in other cities across Egypt; Muslim Brotherhood offices were attacked in Ismailia, Suez, Mahalla, and Cairo. Three of Morsi's advisors resigned on Wednesday over the controversy. Morsi, who has remained relatively silent throughout the recent unrest, is scheduled to address the country on Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the U.N. and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are meeting in Dublin, Ireland on Thursday to discuss the conflict in Syria as concerns heighten over chemical weapons. The unscheduled meeting is taking place on the sidelines of a human rights conference. Russia and the United States have bitterly disagreed on courses of action in Syria. Russia has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions and accuses the United States of interfering in Syrian internal affairs. But the meeting suggests a possible opening for compromise. The meeting comes as concerns increase over the potential use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. U.S. intelligence officials have reportedly discovered that Syrian forces have mixed together precursor chemicals for the deadly nerve agent Sarin in small quantities at one or two storage sites. The Syrian government has repeatedly asserted it will not resort to using chemical weapons, blaming Western countries for drumming up fears as a "pretext for intervention." Fighting continued on Wednesday in the suburbs of Damascus, as well as at the Aqraba air base near the Damascus airport, which has remained effectively closed over the past six days. Meanwhile, Germany agreed on Thursday to deploy up to 400 troops and Patriot missiles to the Turkish border in efforts to protect Turkey from a spillover of the conflict.
- A moderate earthquake killed at least five people and injured 20 others on Wednesday near Zohan in eastern Iran.
- Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, who has lived in exile for 45 years, will visit the Gaza Strip on Friday for the Palestinian militant group's 25th anniversary rally.
Arguments and Analysis
Rape is shredding Syria's social fabric (Lauren Wolfe, CNN)
"The unending "dishonor" and manipulation of Syrians through sexualized violence is committed by all sides, although the majority of our reports indicate government perpetrators. It is creating an entire nation of traumatized people: not just the survivors of the acts, but their children as well.
It is time to stop it all. There are measures the world can take to bring these horrors to an end. Shame should never fall on victims, but should be used to compel Russia to join a U.N. Security Council call for the Syrian government's alleged crimes to be referred to the International Criminal Court."
The Muslim Brotherhood's Militias in Action: A Firsthand Account (Wael Eskandar, Jadaliyya)
"The recent clashes at the Itihadiyya presidential palace leave little room for confusion. A day prior to these events, people took to the streets in Egypt's largest cities to denounce the manner in which the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled presidency has been running the country. On Wednesday 5 December, everything changed. The Muslim Brotherhood reacted by calling on supporters of President Mohamed Morsi to march to the Itihadiyya palace, where an anti-Morsi sit-in was ongoing. Morsi's supporters forced protesters out and destroyed their tents. A little past mid-afternoon all the demonstrators were kicked out and replaced by Morsi's supporters.
In response, anti-Morsi protesters began moving back to the palace area in order to reestablish their sit-in. They started gathering in small numbers at the corner of al-Khalifa al-Ma'moun and El-Merghany Streets. On El-Merghany and stationed around the palace were Morsi's supporters. Chants were exchanged between the two groups as they faced-off with no barriers separating them. Around 7:00 pm the first clashes took place. As anti-Morsi protesters marched in an attempt to retake the space wherein the sit-in had been forced out earlier, they chanted loudly, "the people want to bring down the regime." This is when the first clashes began. The protesters that were charging ahead of me turned around and started stampeding a great distance to the back."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
AFP/Getty Images/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA