News / Middle East

    Egypt Protesters Threaten Presidential Palace

    Egyptian protesters chant anti-Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi slogans outside the presidential palace after they broke a barbed wire barricade keeping them from getting closer to the presidential palace, in Cairo, Dec. 7, 2012.
    Egyptian protesters chant anti-Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi slogans outside the presidential palace after they broke a barbed wire barricade keeping them from getting closer to the presidential palace, in Cairo, Dec. 7, 2012.
    VOA NewsJeff Seldin
    Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's opponents have broken through barbed-wire cordons around the presidential palace in Cairo, where tens of thousands of protesters have gathered.

    It was not immediately clear whether protesters penetrated the main gate of the palace, where army tanks are deployed. Cairo was gripped by protests against Morsi and demonstrations by his supporters throughout the day Friday.

    Thousands of Morsi supporters, many of them members of his Muslim Brotherhood, gathered outside the Al-Azhar mosque for the funerals of two men killed in bloody clashes this week.

    VOA's Cairo Bureau Chief Elizabeth Arrott, says anti-Morsi protesters gave no indication they plan to end their rallies any time soon.  “They say as long as he is planning on going ahead with this controversial draft constitution and referendum on it next week, as well as keeping hold of these extraordinary powers that he’s granted to himself temporarily, there’s no basis for dialogue,” said Arrott.

    The head of the National Salvation Front, Mohammed ElBaradei, says the president's refusal to compromise has created what he calls "a disaster."

     
    Angry protests

    Protesters like Hussein Zayed say they have had enough.  "[President Morsi] doesn't know anything, and he described all Egyptians as 'thugs,'" said Zayed.  "He is a liar and he said that those who killed the protesters are thugs, but the real thugs are the Muslim Brotherhood.''
     
    Other Cairo residents say it is time for the opposition to play by the rules.  One man, named Osama, says the referendum on the constitution should go ahead.  Osama asked, "Don't the liberals want democracy?  ...Don't they agree with going to the ballot box?"
     
    Egypt's Draft Constitution

    • Limits president to two four-year terms
    • Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
    • Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
    • Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
    • Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights
    Osama said that if the referendum on December 15 produces a "yes" vote on the constitution, that will be because Egyptians want "stability." But, he added, "those protesters [over there] don't ever want stability.''
     
    VOA's Arrott says the situation remains dangerous, with plenty of potential for more clashes.  “The police and other security on Wednesday were able to put a line between the two [opposing groups] on the main street, but again most of these clashes just moved off onto the side streets and continued on there.”
     
    New protests have also broken out in Alexandria, where hundreds of people massed in the streets called on Morsi to step down.
     
    Opposition leaders said Friday they will not attend Morsi's proposed "comprehensive" dialogue on Saturday.  The Egyptian leader has insisted that dialogue is the only solution to the country's constitutional crisis.

    Morsi stands firm

    In this image made from video, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi delivers a televised statement in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012.In this image made from video, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi delivers a televised statement in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012.
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    In this image made from video, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi delivers a televised statement in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012.
    In this image made from video, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi delivers a televised statement in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012.
    Speaking on national television Thursday, Morsi said he will not tolerate killings or sabotage.  Morsi said seven people were killed outside the presidential palace and more than 700 others were injured during this week's demonstrations. The president said 80 people were arrested for crimes including the use of firearms, and he claimed so0me of them were "hired for money."

    U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Morsi by telephone Thursday to voice "deep concern" about the protest deaths and injuries.  A White House statement said Obama also urged all Egyptian political leaders to make clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable.  

    Morsi said he will form a new advisory panel to write a new draft constitution if the referendum next week votes "no" on the proposed charter.  Critics say the present draft constitution was drafted solely by Islamists, without input from those who disagree with Morsi.​

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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