The Middle East Channel

Muslim Brotherhood calls for marches as Egypt’s death toll rises

Egypt has reported that 525 people have been killed and 3,717 others wounded since security forces broke up two pro-Morsi protest camps Wednesday. The final death toll is likely to be much higher as many bodies have not yet been registered. Of the people killed, 43 were security personnel, according to the health ministry, and at least two journalists were reported dead. Most of those killed were in Cairo, however violence was reported across the country and many churches were burned and police stations attacked. The Egyptian government has imposed a month long state of emergency in Cairo and 10 other provinces. Additionally, Egyptian officials have arrested 543 people suspected of involvement in clashes and riots. The Muslim Brotherhood called for marches on Thursday and vowed to bring down the "military coup" that ousted former President Mohamed Morsi. Wednesday's violence spurred international condemnation, and the resignation of interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei. France and Germany summoned their Egyptian ambassadors and Turkey called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a "massacre." The United States said it strongly opposed the declaration of a state of emergency in Egypt and pushed for the military backed government to respect basic human rights. The Egyptian government said the sit-ins posed a threat to security and claimed the police used maximum restraint in dispersing the protesters.

Syria

The United Nations has announced a team of U.N. experts will depart immediately to conduct an investigation in Syria into alleged chemical weapons use. Initially, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insited that the inquiry be limited to Khan al-Assal, however nearly two weeks ago the Syrian government said it would allow the experts access to three sites. However, the investigation was delayed over a lack of agreement on security arrangements. On Wednesday, the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement saying the Syrian government "formally accepted the modalities essential for cooperation to ensure the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the mission." The team will visit Khan al-Assal, the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack on March 19, as well as two undisclosed sites. The experts will only report on whether chemical weapons were used, but not who was responsible for their use. There are concerns over whether the experts will be able to find any conclusive evidence as the alleged incidents happened months ago. According to U.N. Mideast envoy Robert Serry, the United Nations has received 13 reports of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria since the uprisings began in 2011.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

'Egypt's Catastrophe of Choice' (Joshua Hersh, The New Yorker)

"The Rabaa sit-in had evolved over time into something more like a small village: it had tented structures, some of them two-story, with electricity cribbed from street lamps; a fully operational pharmacy; and a professional-grade soundstage, from which Brotherhood figures delivered rousing speeches each night to the thousands of supporters who visited Rabaa, and another smaller site in Nahda Square, across town, every day.

Now, much of the protest site lay in tatters. The police and military, for weeks, had threatened to clear the sit-ins 'by whatever means necessary,' and then -- under pressure from human-rights groups and from the government itself -- promised instead simply to surround the sites and wait them out, but they had suddenly opted for the most aggressive choice of all: they showed up at 7 A.M., without notice, in bulldozers and armored vehicles, and fired a barrage of tear gas and live ammunition. By the afternoon, nearly a hundred protesters, and then a hundred and forty-nine, had been counted as dead. (The real number is likely higher.)

Even outside Rabaa, the scene was a frenzy of close urban combat -- tear gas and shooting, some of it rubber bullets, much of it live, automatic fire. Standing at a major intersection about a kilometre away, my colleagues and I watched as wounded combatants were ferried to a waiting bay of ambulances, at a rate of nearly one every two minutes. Shots echoed constantly off the tall apartment buildings, sounding like cracks of lightning. An hour into the clashes, Ahmad Ramzi, a doctor who had volunteered to help (a stethoscope dangled incongruously from his neck), said that he had personally ferried three shooting victims to the hospital, two of them with life-threatening wounds. He didn't know if they had made it."

'Washington's next moves after the Egyptian military's bloody crackdown' (Heather Hurlburt, The Guardian)

"It is now time to sketch out and begin to act on what a more coercive policy would look like, using the leverage we have. A simple consequence would be to note that the 'Leahy law' -- which bars US support to military units that violate human rights with impunity -- makes any Egyptian forces found to have participated in today's killings ineligible for US military training and assistance applies. The administration must act accordingly.

A more comprehensive move would be to announce either that the US has been forced to conclude that Morsi's removal did amount to a coup, or (probably better) to announce an immediate cut in US assistance to Egypt's military as a response to the killings.

Attentive readers will note that I am not proposing a cut-off of all US military assistance: a more nuanced tool would be to announce that Washington will conduct a review of its aid to Egypt. This would assess what levels and types of aid serve US national security interests and of what aid harms them, either by empowering the violations of human rights or by extending the perception that the US condones the abuses."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Comments

Load More Comments