Thousands gather at Al-Azhar to support Mursi

Updated 07 December 2012
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Thousands gather at Al-Azhar to support Mursi

CAIRO: Thousands of President Mursi’s backers gathered outside the country’s most respected Islamic institution for a funeral for two men killed in Wednesday’s bloody clashes.
Egypt’s simmering political crisis showed no signs of letting up the day after Mursi responded to the violence outside his palace with a fiery speech denouncing his opponents. The opposition turned down his appeal for talks, saying the president had not fulfilled their conditions for beginning negotiations.
At the funeral held by Mursi’s backers after midday prayers at Al-Azhar mosque, Egypt’s premier Islamic institution, a Muslim cleric denounced anti-Mursi protesters as “traitors.” Mourners yelled that opposition leaders were “murderers.” In a twist on a revolutionary chant from the 2011 uprising, they also yelled for “bread, freedom, and Islamic law.”
Amid the rival rallies and marches in Cairo and in the cities of Alexandria and Luxor, the public standoff continued over what opponents call the President’s power grab.
In a televised address late Thursday, Mursi refused to call off the vote on the disputed constitution. He accused some in the opposition of serving remnants of Mubarak’s regime and vowed he would never tolerate anyone working for the overthrow of his government.
He also invited the opposition to a dialogue starting today at his palace. Mursi’s opponents replied they would not talk until Mursi cancels his decrees.
The president’s remarks were his first comments to the public after bloody clashes outside his palace on Wednesday, when thousands of his backers from the Muslim Brotherhood fought with the president’s opponents. Six people were killed and at least 700 injured.
The speech brought shouts of “the people want to topple the regime!” from the crowd of 30,000 Mursi opponents gathered outside his palace — the same chant heard in the protests that brought down Mubarak.
Since the crisis erupted, the opposition has tried to forge a united front. The squabbling groups created a National Salvation Front to bring them together, naming Nobel laureate Muhammad ElBaradei, the country’s top reform campaigner, as its leader.
Speaking on the new umbrella group’s behalf, ElBaradei responded to Mursi’s speech in his own televised remarks, saying that current government showed reluctance in acting to stop Wednesday night’s bloodshed outside the palace.
After Friday prayers, protesters began marching to the palace from several different directions.
Protesters are demanding that Mursi rescind decrees that give him almost absolute power and push an Islamist-friendly constitution to a referendum on Dec. 15.

The decrees sparked a crisis that has boiled for more than two weeks. Demonstrations have reached the size and intensity of those that brought down President Hosni Mubarak early last year.


New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

Updated 17 min 47 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.