Egypt continues to plunge into ever greater chaos in the wake of a Port Said court’s decision to sentence 21 football fans to death for their roles in a lethal riot at a match over a year ago which left 79 spectators dead and over 1,000 wounded. President Mohammed Morsi declared a state of emergency in three major Egyptian cities and tens of thousands of people in Port Said are marching to demand secession from the Arab Republic of Egypt as a result, Arab dailies lead off.
“Egypt president vows firmness and imposes emergency in cities on the channel” reads the main headline on the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The article states that the death toll in the post-verdict clashes has risen to 41 and that most of the victims were shot dead by Egyptian security forces. The cities of Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia have been placed under military rule for the next 30 days and are under curfew from nine o’clock in the evening until six o’clock in the morning.
Morsi, in an expression of determination, stated that “we will face any threat to our citizens and property with all force and decisiveness. There is no room for hesitation.”
According to the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Egyptian opposition leaders have been quick to mock Morsi’s bold call for martial law, since it coincided with the withdrawal of large numbers of security forces from the cities in question.
Amr Hamzawy, the head of the Freedom Egypt Party and a leader of the National Salvation Front, the coalition of non-Islamist political parties, told A-Sharq Al-Awsat that Morsi bears full responsibility for the blood shed in recent days because he is using the exact same policies of oppression against Egyptians that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak did.
“The events since last Friday demonstrate that the current regime uses the same tactics as the Mubarak regime,” Hamzawy said, “with suppression of the people and the opposition, instead of opening up to the demands of the people and engaging them in serious dialogue.”
However, the London-based Al-Hayat reports that yesterday afternoon Morsi called on leaders of the National Salvation Front to meet with him for “a national dialogue” at his presidential palace this afternoon. It is unclear if the meeting will take place, especially in light of the comments of Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the current leader of the Constitution Party, that “a national dialogue would be a complete waste of time.”
The Cairo-based Al-Masry Al-Youm picked up ElBaradei’s Twitter page, where he writes that “without claiming responsibility for the bloody events and without a pledge to create a government of national unity,” there really is no point in meeting.
These events on the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution may be evidence that Egypt’s revolution is not yet complete and that much more volatile times are still to come.
Arabs pounce on Israeli threat to bomb Syria
Fearing that the Syrian regime may lose control over its alleged stockpile of chemical weapons, Israeli leaders have asserted that Israel’s military would launch an attack “to prevent them from getting into the hands of Hezbollah or the Syrian opposition.”
A-Sharq Al-Awsat quotes Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom as saying that “this development would be a crossing of red lines that would require a different approach, perhaps a preventive military operation. . . The idea in principle is that the transfer of chemical weapons cannot happen. The moment we know something like this could happen we have to start making decisions.”
Al-Hayat reports that the acquisition of Syria’s chemical weapons by Hezbollah would change the capabilities of the organization tremendously. Shalom’s comments follow those made by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who said the chances for the Assad regime’s survival “pales day by day.”
In an op-ed entitled “Israel’s role in Syria” in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya television, writes that “with the fall of Assad, the Israelis will lose their ‘wise enemy,’ and are gaining a growing appetite to influence what happens next” in Syria.
Alleging that Israel is working to preserve the Assad regime as much as possible, Rashed states that “Israel has influenced the actions of the West and of Russia in dealing with events in Syria and was probably behind the decline in threats made against the Assad regime.”