- POSTED: 06 Oct 2013 21:42
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Egypt on Sunday braced for rival demonstrations called by supporters and opponents of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi as it marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
CAIRO: Egypt on Sunday braced for rival demonstrations called by supporters and opponents of deposed Islamist 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 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 fervour 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.
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.
His supporters decried his overthrow -- a year after he was elected in the country's first free elections -- as a violation of democratic principles.
Away from the main squares, Cairo's streets were largely deserted on Sunday, 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 October 6 celebrations in Egypt," state news agency MENA reported.
"The ministry asserts its determination to firmly confront all violence and infringements of law by the Muslim Brotherhood supporters through their marches."
Attempts by Islamists to reach Tahrir Square on Friday sparked clashes with Morsi opponents and security forces in which four people were killed, in the deadliest street fighting in more than a month.
Morsi's opponents begun gathering at Tahrir Square on Saturday evening chanting pro-military slogans, an AFP correspondent reported.
Authorities deployed several armoured vehicles around the square and installed metal detectors at two entrances to allow people inside. All other entrances were sealed.
Calls for demonstrations on Sunday also came from the Tamarod movement, which led the nationwide protests that prompted the army's ouster of Morsi.
"We call all Egyptians to come out tomorrow across all squares in the country to assert that this nation will not allow its revolution to be stolen," key Tamarod leader Mahmoud Badr said.
Analysts said the Islamists' call for protests was a high-risk attempt to strip the current high military command of the army's legacy and patriotic pride in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"They will try to show that the present army is not the army of all Egyptians, but only of those who backed the coup," Hassan Nafaa, political science professor at Cairo University, told AFP.
"But this message will not go down well."
The Anti-Coup Alliance group has repeatedly called for protests against the military's overthrow of Morsi, but its ability to mobilise large crowds has waned as security forces have arrested some 2,000 Islamists, including Morsi himself and several Brotherhood leaders.
Egypt has been engulfed in political turmoil since Mubarak was toppled during the 2011 Arab Spring, but the conflict between Islamists and their secular rivals took a particularly violent turn after Morsi's ouster.
Hundreds were killed on August 14 when security forces moved in to destroy two large protest camps set up by Morsi supporters in Cairo. Islamists elsewhere in Egypt struck back, attacking police and torching churches and other Coptic Christian institutions.
The government has also been battling an increasingly virulent insurgency in the Sinai, where militants have launched near-daily attacks on police and military targets.