The eruption of violence underscores the difficulty of restoring security three months after the ouster of former President Mohammed Mursi and the worst crackdown in decades on his Muslim Brotherhood.
Five soldiers and one officer were killed when gunmen opened fire on them near the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, according to Moustafa Younes, a police officer in Ismailiya province. Three people died when a car bomb detonated near a security installation in Southern Sinai, Mohamed Darwish, an officer at the directorate, said by phone.
“What we are witnessing is part of a very long process of confrontation that will continue to be violent until a decisive event happens,” either in the form of reconciliation or a harsher military crackdown, said Ziad Akl, a senior researcher at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood used rallies to mark the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel Sunday to push back against the clampdown and reinvigorate the protest movement. The bloodshed is also undermining efforts to revive a battered economy, leaving the most populous Arab country largely dependent on aid from Gulf Arab states to stem a decline in foreign reserves.
“If you keep on having clashes that kill over 50, then the economy is not going to fully recover,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “That’s the main bargaining chip that the Brotherhood and their allies have: They can essentially undermine Egypt’s economic recovery if they continue to protest and security forces respond with brute force.”
Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper the army intervened in the ousting of Mursi on July 3 to prevent a civil war after protests against the Islamist leader.
“If we had reached the stage of civil fighting or civil war, the army wouldn’t have been able to stand against it or prevent its consequences,” El-Sisi said.
The military has been waging a battle against what it describes as terrorists in Sinai, with officials worried the violence there could breed an insurgency in other parts of the country.
At least 375 people were injured in Sunday’s fighting, MENA reported, citing Health Ministry official Khalid al-Khatib. Many of those killed were in Cairo and Giza, both the sites of pro-Mursi sit-ins that were broken up by security forces in August leaving hundreds killed.
A wave of arrests, prosecutions and asset-freezes has weakened the Brotherhood’s leadership though the group and its allies continue to call for streets protests to reverse what they say is the “coup” that unseated Morsi.
“While the putschists hold festive celebrations for a faction of this nation, in which they promise to dance over the dead bodies of their fellow citizens who oppose the coup, they send their forces to kill, maim, arrest and detain peaceful Egyptians,” the main alliance backing Mursi said in a statement.
“This revolution will not be repressed or derailed by the heinous killings.”
The group called for demonstrations throughout the week, including a protest on Friday in Tahrir Square, the iconic plaza of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, in a move that could lead to new clashes.