Gunmen attack Egyptian opposition protesters

Updated 12 December 2012
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Gunmen attack Egyptian opposition protesters

CAIRO: Masked gunmen attacked opposition protesters camped out at Cairo’s Tahrir Square early on Tuesday, firing birdshot at them and wounding nine people, security officials said.
The attack stoked tensions just hours ahead of rival mass rallies in the Egyptian capital by supporters and opponents of the country’s Islamist president over a disputed draft constitution. The charter has vastly polarized the nation and triggered some of the worst violence since Muhammad Mursi took office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president.
It was unclear who was behind the pre-dawn attack on the protesters who have been staging a sit-in at Tahrir for nearly three weeks, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The protesters belong to the liberal opposition, which claims the draft of the charter restricts freedoms and gives Islamists vast influence over the running of the country. The draft, hurriedly adopted late last month by Mursi’s Islamist allies, is going to a nationwide referendum on Saturday.
The dispute prompted hundreds of thousands of the president’s opponents to take to the streets in massive rallies — the largest from primarily secular groups since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year. Mursi’s supporters responded with huge demonstrations of their own, which led to clashes in the streets that left at least six people dead and hundreds wounded.
There have been at least two dozen attacks on offices of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, according to the group’s leaders. Meanwhile, senior opposition figures, including former lawmakers, have been badly beaten by pro-Mursi Islamists.


New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

Updated 14 min 14 sec ago
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New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

GAZA CITY: Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israel were pronounced dead Monday, a Gaza official said, bringing the toll from Israeli fire since March 30 to 40.
A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahba, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20.
Wahba, who was deaf, was shot in the head in a clash east of Khan Yunis on April 6, and Shamali died of “bullet wounds to his belly” sustained on Friday, said spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.
Most of the 40 Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or air strikes.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
Some protesters have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers.
Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed.
The Israeli army says its troops only opened fire in self-defense or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel.
More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said.
Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union.
Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Hamas since 2008.
Also on Monday, Hamas’s military wing said one of its men died in an explosion.
It said in a statement that Mohammed Al-Maqadma, 55, was killed by an “explosive projectile” fired by an unnamed group which it described as hostile to Hamas.
It did not elaborate further.
The Gaza health ministry said a child was wounded in the same blast, in the northern part of the strip.