Egypt's rival camps to rally on Sinai Liberation Day

CAIRO – Both supporters and opponents of Egypt's army-backed government are gearing up to mark the 32nd anniversary of the liberation of the Sinai Peninsula from Israeli occupation on April 25.

A group that supports former president Hosni Mubarak announced plans to mark the occasion by rallying outside the Cairo military hospital in which Mubarak – under whom the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai was completed – is being treated.

"We will demonstrate in front of the military hospital to honor president Mubarak, who fought in the war [with Israel in 1973] and successfully liberated Sinai," Amr Gouda, spokesman for the "Sons of Mubarak" group, told Anadolu Agency.  

The group was formed in the wake of Egypt's 2011 popular uprising that led to the ouster of the longtime autocrat, who remains on trial for allegedly ordering the killing of anti-regime protesters.

Gouda is also the founder of the "By Order of the People" campaign, which supports former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's current run for the presidency.

Al-Sisi, who relinquished his post as defense minister last month to announce his presidential campaign, is widely seen as the architect of last July's ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi by the military.

"We will also demonstrate outside Defense Ministry headquarters in support of al-Sisi's presidential bid," said Gouda.

Meanwhile, the recently-launched "Batel" ("Void") campaign, which is sponsoring a signature drive against Morsi's ouster, has called on supporters to stage marches across the country – including in Cairo's Tahrir Square – on April 25 to demand that Egypt's military remain out of domestic politics.

"We've chosen this occasion in order to draw inspiration from Egypt's struggle to liberate Sinai for own struggle," campaign spokesman Mohamed Gamal said.

"We're currently coordinating with other groups to stage rallies from April 25 to May 1 to demand an end to military rule," he added.

A number of groups who oppose Morsi, al-Sisi and Mubarak have announced plans to boycott all Sinai Liberation Day rallies, fearing possible clashes between protesters and security forces.

"It might be like the October 6 protests," Mohamed Youssef, a spokesman for the April 6 youth group (Democratic Front), told Anadolu Agency.

At least 50 people were killed last October during a crackdown by security forces on pro-democracy demonstrations held to mark the 40th anniversary of Egypt's 1973 military victory against Israel.

Egypt has been dogged by instability since last July, when the army unseated Morsi – the country's first freely elected leader – on the back of massive protests against his presidency.

Ever since, defiant opponents of Morsi's ouster have staged rallies on an almost daily basis.

On May 26-27, Egyptians are set to elect a new president in the second phase of an army-imposed transitional roadmap that should be completed later this year with the holding of parliamentary polls.

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