“You killed them, you dogs,” the protesters shouted at the prime minister, Hesham Qandil, state news media reported. Mr. Qandil is not a member of the Brotherhood, though some people here — especially critics of the Islamist group — say he is ideologically close to it. Pictures from the ceremony showed Mr. Qandil surrounded by security guards as protesters waving shoes pursued him.
A sign by a protester read: “This funeral is for Egyptians, not the Brotherhood and their president.”
Mr. Morsi’s absence left his defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who was shown on television walking behind the flag-draped coffins, as the most senior official in attendance. Though the number of hecklers was reportedly small, Mr. Morsi’s decision to stay away was a reminder of the challenges he faces as the country’s first Islamist leader navigating Egypt’s deeply polarized politics.
The killings of the soldiers, which represented Mr. Morsi’s first real crisis, have aggravated the political clash between the Brotherhood, on one side, and its more secular rivals including Egypt’s powerful military leaders. “The same lines of division exist,” said Mustapha Kamel el-Sayyid, a political-science professor at Cairo University. “People are making new arguments.”
The president’s latest vulnerability stems from his closeness with Hamas, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that governs the Gaza Strip. Mr. Morsi had promised to ease restrictions on Gaza by opening the border crossing and allowing goods, now smuggled, to pass through the border.
After the attack, some of Mr. Morsi’s critics cast his relationship with the group as a liability. Security officials have said that Palestinians played some role in the attack on the soldiers, who were killed on Sunday when 35 gunmen stormed their checkpoint, spraying the soldiers with machine gun fire. Officials said that militants based in the Sinai Peninsula carried out the attack, along with Palestinians who infiltrated the country through smuggling tunnels from the Gaza Strip.
After the attack on the checkpoint, the militants commandeered military vehicles and tried to storm the nearby Israeli border. The Egyptian military said that Palestinians firing mortars from the Gaza Strip joined in the assault.
“It is very embarrassing for Dr. Morsi,” said Mr. Sayyid. “This could be seen as the present the Palestinians gave him after he offered some measure of assistance.” Mr. Sayyid added that such criticism was unfair and ignored the security lapses by the government.
Still, some of Mr. Morsi’s detractors seized on the attack to raise questions about the president’s positions. Emad Gad, a former member of Parliament who is a critic of Mr. Morsi, said in an interview with the semiofficial Al Ahram newspaper that the president’s “statements regarding not having a border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is what made the terrorist cell dare to conduct these operations.”
Despite the accusations, the Egyptian authorities have provided no information about the identities of the attackers, though they have said that an intense manhunt is under way for them. And though attention has recently been focused on the smuggling tunnels, many analysts here said Sinai itself is a more pressing source of concern as a place where militancy has taken hold after years of neglect by the government and heavy-handed treatment by the security services.
The violence in the northern Sinai Peninsula continued on Tuesday night. At around 11 p.m., in what appeared to be a series of coordinated assaults, gunmen fired on at least seven government checkpoints as well as a military cement factory, according to security officials. At least two people were injured in the attacks, the officials said.
Later on Tuesday, there were indications that the country’s political forces were trying to tamp down the statements against the Brotherhood. In a joint statement, several political parties, including the Brotherhood’s political wing, called for long-term development in Sinai, and recommended better coordination with the Palestinians.
Mr. Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali, explained later that the president, who visited four injured soldiers in a military hospital, had not wanted to interfere with the public’s ability to attend the ceremony. “It was also tense,” he said. “We all realize the magnitude of the sadness, so the president preferred not to come.”
Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.
Category: World News