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Egyptians Hold Funerals, Sides Remain Defiant

  • Zlatica Hoke

Egyptians are mourning the victims of Wednesday's violence with both sides blaming each other for the escalation of violence in the wake of President Mohamed Morsi's July 3 ouster. The United States and other countries have condemned the violence, but Washington has stopped short of cutting U.S. military ties with Cairo.

Officials in Egypt say the death toll has reached almost 650, including some police officers, in the violence that has swept the country. Supporters of ousted President Morsi claim that several thousand people were killed by security forces Wednesday.

Hundreds of mourners gathered Thursday at a mosque in Cairo's Nasr City where some of the bodies were brought to await funeral. One mourner said the security forces attacked unarmed protesters. "We had nothing in our hands except for some stones and twigs. I swear by God that all this talk about us having guns is not true. I did not see that."

But the opponents claim the opposite. They say that the Islamists incite violence and have to be stopped. Christians across Egypt have reported that their churches were attacked Thursday. In Giza, the city across the Nile from Cairo, angry Egyptians stormed and torched two buildings housing the provincial government. Government employee Fehmi Hassan said they were supporters of ousted President Morsi.

"Today, about a thousand supporters came and broke the exterior fence and hurled stones at the building, so we jumped from the rear side and they set fire to the cars, the governor's office, the auditing office and all the governor's cars," Hassan said.

Islamists have called for renewed rallies in Cairo on Friday to express "anger" after hundreds of protesters were killed in a bloody government crackdown on their protest camps, despite a nationwide state of emergency the government declared in the wake of Wednesday's crackdown. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the situation.

Analyst Geoffrey Aronson, director of The Foundation for Middle East Peace, told Alhurra television that he does not see a quick end to the unrest. "It is not clear that there is anyone in Egypt today, any part of Egyptian society that's capable of stabilizing this environment," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday condemned the violence and cancelled joint military exercises with Egypt planned for next month. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States will continue a military relationship with Egypt, but warned that some of the important elements of the cooperation are at risk.

Some Egyptians have reacted with defiance to the criticism from abroad.

"We should not look to America or Europe. My name is Doctor Ahmed Mansour. It is not right that eight churches are torched, and America and Europe give up on those churches because of the Muslim Brotherhood," he stated.

The U.S. government has urged Egypt's military leaders repeatedly to move fast toward establishing a democratic government including all Egypt's diverse communities.
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