Updated Aug. 15, 4:50 p.m.
Hundreds are dead in Egypt following violent clashes sparked when security forces stormed two protest camps of those loyal to ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Health officials said at least 638 people have been killed and thousands injured.
Thursday morning, pro-Morsi supporters had attacked a government building in Giza, a part of Cairo’s metropolitan area, NBC News’ Ayman Mohyeldin reported. Protesters used Molotov cocktails and live ammunition in the attack, according to police.
President Obama Thursday canceled an upcoming joint-military exercise with Egyptian armed forces, and said that he had asked his national security team to investigate the actions of the country’s government over the past few days.
“The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last couple of days,” Obama said.
The explosion of deadly confrontations comes after a six-week stand-off between Morsi’s supporters and the military-backed government that has replaced him. Egypt’s interim vice president, Mohamed Mustafa El Baradei, resigned Wednesday after the military government in Egypt declared a month-long state of emergency.
Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violent crackdown Wednesday, saying the “deplorable” actions run counter to “Egypt’s aspirations for peace, inclusion, and genuine democracy.”
“Violence is simply not a solution in Egypt or anywhere else,” Kerry said. “Violence will not create a roadmap for Egypt’s future. Violence only impedes the transition to an inclusive civilian government, a government chosen in free and fair elections that governs democratically, consistent with the goals of the Egyptian revolution. And violence and continued political polarization will only further tear the Egyptian economy apart and prevent it from growing and providing the jobs and the future that the people of Egypt want so badly.”
An Egypt security source told NBC News that 543 people have been arrested in the ongoing operations to clear the two camps, one outside the eastern Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in northeast Cario and another in the city’s Nahda Square. Among those arrested NBC News reported were eight Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Essam el Erian, Safwat el Hegazy, and Mohammed Beltagy. Beltagy’s 17-year-old daughter, Asmaa Beltagy, was among those killed earlier Wednesday.
“We also strongly oppose a return to a state-of-emergency law and call on the government to respect basic human rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly and due process under the law. The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt and all parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully.”
Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the U.S. is strongly against a return to a state of emergency law and called the violence “deplorable” at an afternoon briefing. He added the bloodshed runs “counter to the Egyptians aspirations for peace” and urged those in the country to find a political solution instead of going down “the path towards violence.”
After Morsi was deposed, the Obama Administration said it would not suspend the flow of U.S. aid to the new, military-backed government. Spokesman Jay Carney said it was a “complex and difficult issue with significant consequences.” The United States provides approximately $1.5 billion in aid each year to Egypt, which—after Israel—is the second largest receiver of American aid.
The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon also strongly condemned the violence, saying through his spokesperson that “in the aftermath of today’s violence, the secretary-general urges all Egyptians to concentrate their efforts on promoting genuinely inclusive reconciliation.”
He added, “While recognizing that political clocks do not run backwards, the secretary-general also believes firmly that violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to the challenges Egypt faces,” he said.