Egypt yesterday braced for rival demonstrations called by supporters and opponents of ousted former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi as it marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
Security forces and vehicles were deployed around the main squares of the country, where protesters began to converge in a show of support for the army that ousted Morsi in July.
Hundreds of people, some carrying pictures of army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, headed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, as military jets in formation flew overhead.
One person was killed in clashes between Islamists and their opponents in the central Egyptian town of Delga, a medical official and witnesses said.
Hundreds of army supporters also gathered in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, waving Egyptian flags, as patriotic songs played in the background.
For weeks authorities have been drumming up national fervor in state media, amid the worst political divisions Egypt has seen in recent history.
Supporters of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood have called their own rival demonstrations in the afternoon, sparking fears of fresh unrest after months of violence and political turmoil.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi urged Egyptians to unite, saying the country is on the road to recovery.
“As we go through these critical times all Egyptians should stand together, be confident and be optimistic about the future,” Beblawi said in a national address on television.
Morsi’s opponents took to the streets in their millions in June to call on the military to remove the Islamist leader, accusing him of failing the revolution that brought him to the presidency and concentrating power in the hands of his Islamist allies.
Away from the main squares, Cairo’s streets were largely deserted yesterday, a public holiday to commemorate the October War, known as the Yom Kippur War in Israel.
The war, remembered proudly by the Egyptian army because it caught Israel by surprise, led to the recovery of the Sinai Peninsula in a 1979 peace treaty.
The interior ministry warned it would “firmly confront” any violence and warned against “attempts that may disturb the Oct. 6 celebrations in Egypt,” state news agency MENA reported.