CAIRO — Supporters and opponents of deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi on Saturday called for rival demonstrations on the 1973 Arab-Israeli war anniversary after the deadliest violence in weeks.
The Anti-Coup Alliance of Islamist groups called on its supporters to try to reach Cairo's Tahrir Square, blocked off by the army, to mark Sunday's 40th anniversary of the war.
On Saturday, Egyptian police used tear gas to prevent Islamist students from entering another Cairo square that was site of a deadly security crackdown in August, a security official said. Groups of students tried to enter Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in the Nasr City district when they were stopped by police who fired tear gas to disperse them, the official said.
The attempt to return to Rabaa al-Adawiya comes after Islamists staged anti-military protests on Friday in some Cairo districts and around the iconic Tahrir Square. Four people were killed when protesters clashed with their opponents and security forces.
Islamists led by the banned Muslim Brotherhood have regularly tried to stage protests against the military-backed authorities since the army ousted Morsi on July 3, and now the anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war threatened to set off a new round of clashes.
The conflict, known as the October war in the Arab world and the Yom Kippur war in Israel, is remembered proudly by the Egyptian army as it caught Israel's defenses unaware and led ultimately to Egypt's recovery of the Sinai Peninsula in the 1979 peace treaty.
"The Egypt Anti-Coup Alliance repeats its call to all Egyptians to continue their protests in every part of Egypt, and to gather in Tahrir Square on Sunday, October 6, to celebrate the army of that victory and its leaders," the bloc said.
Calls for demonstrations on Sunday were also made by Tamarod, the movement which led nationwide protests against Morsi that finally led to his ouster by the army.
"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," prominent Tamarod leader Mahmoud Badr told reporters.
Analysts said the Islamists' call for protests on Sunday marked a high-risk attempt to strip the current high command of the Arab-Israeli conflict's legacy of patriotic pride in the army.
"They will try to show that the present army is not the army of all Egyptians, but only of those who backed the coup," said Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University.
"But this message will not go down well," he told AFP.
Nafaa said the Islamists mistakenly believed they could repeat the 2011 protests that swept away veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak and his despised police.
"The Muslim Brotherhood fails to realize that there can't be another revolution," he said.
"Egyptian people are not against the army as they were against the police in January 2011. If there is violence tomorrow, the Muslim Brotherhood will be the loser".
The Anti-Coup Alliance said that Friday's bloodshed, which it blamed on "attacks on marches and protests," would only "increase our determination to continue the revolution."
But the Egyptian press blamed the Brotherhood for the violence and expressed concern that Sunday's demonstrations would see more.
"Muslim Brotherhood's bloody rehearsal for October 6," ran the headlined in independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The Anti-Coup Alliance has desperately sought to keep up the momentum of its protests against the military-installed interim government.
But its ability to mobilize large crowds has been sharply reduced by the rounding up of nearly all of its leaders.
More than 2,000 Islamists have been detained since security forces cleared their two main Cairo protest camps on August 14 in an operation that left hundreds dead.
Top Brotherhood leaders are behind bars and face trial, including Morsi who is held at an unknown location since his ouster, while a court has banned the movement and seized its assets.
The United Nations, the United States and Germany voiced alarm at Friday's violence.
The protesters "have a responsibility to protest peacefully, to not incite violence, to not undertake violence of their own," said deputy US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
In New York, UN chief Ban Ki-moon stressed "the importance of peaceful protest, respect for freedom of assembly and commitment to non-violence," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in a statement Saturday expressed concern over the new bloodshed in Egypt and urged leaders from both sides "not to pour oil on the fire."
© AFP 2013