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Flag of Egypt
  1. Egypt Main Page
  2. Egypt Becomes a Republic
  3. Tensions Between Egypt and Israel Erupt in the Six-Day War
  4. Egypt Begins Fighting Islamic Extremists
  5. Mubarak Resigns Under Intense Pressure from Protesters
  6. Several Milestones Signal Transition to Democracy
  7. Protesters Return to Tahrir Square
  8. Islamists Fare Well in Parliamentary Elections
  9. Mubarak Sentenced to Life in Prison
  10. Political Turmoil Complicates Presidential Election
  11. President Morsi Faces Early Tests
  12. Protests Threaten Morsi Government
  13. Morsi Deposed by Military After One Year in Office
  14. Military Brutally Cracks Down on Protesters
  15. Voters Approve New Constitution
President Morsi Faces Early Tests

President Morsi faced his first test in early August 2012, when militants shot and killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at an army checkpoint in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel. Several of the militants then drove into Israel, where their vehicle was destroyed by the Israeli military. Despite increased jihadist activity and warnings about a potential attack in the Sinai, the Egyptian Army was caught unprepared. Morsi ordered an airstrike on the Sinai, which killed about 20 militants. On Aug. 12, Morsi dismissed or "reassigned" several senior generals and the heads of each service branch of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), an influential force in Egypt that has effectively been in control since the fall of Hosni Mubarak and recently been in a power struggle with the new civilian government. Defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, a power broker in Egypt, was among the leaders Morsi stripped of his position. Morsi also voided a constitutional declaration imposed by the military that limited the role of the president, and implemented a new order that vastly expanded his power and that of the legislature. The bold move sent a clear message that the civilian government had taken back control of the country.

The attack in the Sinai highlighted the importance—and fragility—of the relationship between Israel and Egypt in dealing with the explosive nature of the region.

Protests broke out at the U.S. embassy in Cairo in September over the release of a YouTube film, Innocence of Muslims , which insulted the Prophet Muhammad and criticized Islam. Demonstrators stormed the walls of the embassy and ripped down the American flag. President Morsi was slow to respond to the protests and issued only a tepid condemnation of the violence, prompting a call from President Barack Obama, who warned that relations between the U.S. and Egypt will suffer if he fails to take stronger action against anti-American violence. The protests coincided with similar actions in Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Indonesia, and Pakistan. In Libya, the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other embassy officials were killed by armed gunmen.

In November 2012 as violence intensified between Israelis and members of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, President Morsi held indirect talks with Hamas and the Israeli government in an attempt to prevent further destabilization in the region. On Nov. 21, Egyptian foreign Mohamed Kamel Amr and U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced a cease-fire had been signed.

Any praise that Morsi received for intervening in the Gaza crisis was quickly overshadowed by a brazen power grab announced on November 22, in which he declared authority over the courts, thereby removing any check on his actions by the courts. He said the move was necessary because the judiciary, made up of Mubarak appointees, was threatening to suspend the constitutional assembly before it completed the task of drafting a new constitution. Progress on writing a new constitution had been stalled by members of the opposition on the committee. Morsi also said the edict would bring "political, social and economic stability" and remove barriers to a smooth transition of power. The decree was met with large protests in Tahrir Square, the scene of the uprising against Mubarak, and international condemnation. It also fueled accusations that one autocrat had succeeded another. Days later—on November 26—Morsi seemed to have backtracked in repsonse to the outpouring of rage, saying only "acts of sovereignty" would be exempt from judicial oversight. The clarification did little to placate his opponents. Under threat of being suspended by the courts, the constitutional assembly hastily approved a draft document on Nov. 29. The constitution satisfied some of the demands of the revolutionaries by weakening the presidency and strengthening Parliament and banning torture, however it was criticized for affirming the power of the military and potentially limiting the rights of women and religious minorities. The draft constitution passed because Morsi's opponents on the committee from secular groups and Coptic Christians boycotted the vote. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against Morsi's power grab. The protests turned violent when members of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to break up the crowds. Several people were killed in the fighting between the opposing sides. The referendum on the constitution was held in December, and about 64% of voters approved it. Turnout, however, was low—less than 33%.

Next: Protests Threaten Morsi Government
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