The death toll in Egypt soared to 638 on Thursday
The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency briefing Thursday on the latest developments in Egypt following the government’s deadly crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the West of ignoring the violence and called on the Security Council to meet urgently to discuss the situation. Britain, France and Australia all council members jointly requested the council meeting.
The U.N. spokesman’s office said Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will brief the council behind closed doors at 5-30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT).
The death toll in Egypt soared to 638 on Thursday as turmoil spread across the country, following Wednesday’s crackdown on two camps housing supporters of the ousted president who were demanding his reinstatement.
U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said they do not expect the council to issue a statement or adopt a resolution Thursday.
Whether the council takes any action in the future is uncertain. Russia and China traditionally oppose Security Council involvement in the domestic affairs of a country, partly because of sensitivity over disputes in their own countries, including in Chechnya and Tibet.
Argentina, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, condemned “the brutal repression against popular protests that won the streets of the main cities of Egypt.” It urged authorities to “totally and immediately cease the spiral of violence loosed in recent days against unarmed citizens.”
Earlier report from Atul Aneja
Egypt appeared headed towards another bout of escalatory violence, as supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy continued to attack government buildings on Thursday — a day after a bloody crackdown which left behind angry survivors who seemed focussed on bringing down the military-backed government.
Hundreds of activists from the Muslim Brotherhood — Mr. Morsy’s parent organisation — stormed and set on fire a government building in Giza. The interior ministry confirmed that the structure in Cairo’s twin-city had been torched with Molotov cocktails and pummelled by live ammunition, just after government employees managed to escape the colonial-style villa.
The fury demonstrated by Mr. Morsy’s supporters was symptomatic of the reservoir of anger and grief that has accumulated after Wednesday’s brutal crackdown on two major encampments of mostly Muslim Brotherhood activists in Cairo. The health ministry acknowledged that 525 people had been killed, but the Brotherhood maintained that 2000 activists had perished during the bloodbath at the Nahda traffic junction and outside the Rabaa al Adawiya mosque.
The interim government’s drive to find a military rather than a political solution to end the crisis seems to have deepened the already inflamed polarisation in Egypt among die-hard secularists and Islamists.
A Tweet by Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad seemed to sum up the ingrained mentality of non-compromise. “We will push [forward] until we bring down this military coup.”
The military-installed government has also shown little inclination to show flexibility or imagination to find a solution. A month-long state of emergency was declared on Wednesday. The military has also tightened its nationwide grip by appointing 25 new provincial governors out of whom 15 have a background in the armed forces.
Wednesday’s blood-letting has driven cracks in the edifice of the civil administration — evident from the protest resignation of the elder statesman Mohamed El-Baradei from his post as Vice-President. The April 6 Youth Movement that had earlier backed the military coup that toppled Mr. Morsy on July 3 has also condemned the harsh assault on the sit-ins.
The military-backed government is facing considerable flak from Western governments, but most of the petro-monarchies of the Gulf, who provide the financial muscle to the post-Morsy dispensation in Cairo, are unwavering in their support.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused the West of ignoring bloodshed in Egypt and called on the United Nations Security Council to meet urgently to discuss the situation in the country where hundreds of people were reported killed.