Sisi says 'can't ignore' public call to run for president


Gen. Abdel Fatah el-SissiEgypt’s military chief gave his strongest indication yet that he intends to run for president, saying Tuesday that he can’t turn his back if Egyptians want him to be a candidate.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al Sisi is considered almost certain to win if he runs. He is riding a wave of popular fervor since the military ousted the country’s first freely elected president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, who had faced massive protests demanding his removal after a year in office.

Since the ouster in July, a heated anti-Islamist and nationalist media campaign has fanned support for Field Marshal Sisi. For weeks, pro-military media have been saying he will announce his candidacy imminently. The top body of military generals, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, has backed his candidacy.

His comments Tuesday in a speech to military cadets stopped just short of officially announcing he will run. He hinted he was waiting for a law governing the presidential vote and setting a date for it. The vote is expected by the end of April.

When asked by the cadets about his possible candidacy, Field Marshal Sisi replied: “No one who loves his nation and loves Egyptians can ignore the desire of so many of them, or turn his back on their will,” according to excerpts released on military spokesman’s Facebook page.

“The coming days will see the completion of the procedures that are officially necessary in this context,” he added.

Field Marshal Sisi was appointed defense minister and army chief by Mr. Morsi. But since the ouster, the military-backed interim government has been waging a fierce crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group and other Islamists, while facing a growing insurgency by Islamic militants in retaliation for Mr. Morsi’s removal.

A court on Tuesday banned all activities in Egypt of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the neighboring Gaza Strip and is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. The court ordered the closure of Hamas offices and the suspension of all dealings with the group.

Authorities accuse Hamas of playing a major role in fueling the insurgency by militants in the northern region of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza and Israel.

In Gaza, senior Hamas official Izzat Rishq condemned the ruling, saying the movement viewed it as a “political decision” directed against the Palestinian people. Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk wrote on his Facebook page that the group has no affiliates in Egypt and all its meetings or visits were carried out with the knowledge and under the auspices of Egyptian intelligence.

The court said it based its ruling on potential danger posed by the group. Mr. Morsi and many Brotherhood leaders are facing charges and trials on allegations of conspiring with Hamas to undermine national security.

Shunned by the West as a terror group, Hamas had hoped Mr. Morsi’s presidency could help ease its international isolation. It forged close ties during his year in office

But since Mr. Morsi’s ouster, the military has worked to destroy a sprawling network of underground tunnels along the Egypt-Gaza border used by Palestinians in Gaza to smuggle weapons and goods from Egypt, including gasoline and medicine.