This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.
Egyptian state media reported Wednesday night that the army has deposed President Mohamed Morsi. Earlier, a meeting presided over by the Egyptian military that included representatives from political, religious and national groups was held on Wednesday evening. State media, citing anonymous sources, reported that the army deadline demanding President Morsi’s compliance with opposition demands had been extended in order to reach a peaceful conclusion among the diverse interests. By late evening, tanks were deployed in Cairo and elsewhere in an attempt to prevent chaos.
Rumors from inside Egypt’s military echelon speak of the creation of a ruling council that would include representatives of all relevant sectors – military, political, religious – and allow Morsi to remain in power with the promise of “early presidential elections once the constitution is re-written.”
The Egyptian military took control of state television on Wednesday as the army’s ultimatum to President Mohamed Morsi to reach an agreement with his opponents approached. Morsi issued a plea for calm in remarks aired on Egyptian TV Tuesday night, but his rejection of the army's 48-hour threat to intercede appears only to have heightened tensions in the street with the president offering his people an olive branch that few were prepared to accept.
The situation remained fluid Wednesday morning as the Egyptian people were watching and contemplating the possibility of civil war.
After his speech, clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators resulting in the deaths of at least sixteen of his supporters who were camped out in front of Cairo University. "Heavy clashes are taking place and cars are on fire," journalist Baher Ghorab told The Media Line.
Through Tuesday night, the army sought to maintain neutrality between the government and opposition, with no signs of intervention apparent.
"Morsi defied the army's 48-hour ultimatum given to all political factions in Egypt to find a resolution that benefits Egypt," Egyptian Army Capt. Amr Tolba told the Media Line.
In his speech, the president was adamant in rejecting the ultimatum and asserted that he would remain in office.
Morsi also assured Egyptians that, "Egypt will sustain its production of food, its own defense, and maintain its natural resources."
On the streets, however, it appeared to observers that the Egyptian people were uninterested in paying heed. Huge crowds estimated as high as 25 million protesters poured out across the nation in what was the largest mass protest seen since the first day of the revolution that brought down Hosni Mubarak in January 2011.
Sky News Arabia reported that anti-Morsi protesters in Alexandria had started blocking the railroad to Cairo, as the army’s deadline loomed.
Several Morsi supporters interviewed by The Media Line said they are willing to pay with their lives to protect the legitimacy of Egypt's democracy and constitution.
"We will protect the president and those behind him, and if required we will seek martyrdom to protect the Islamic Project," [referring to a plan calling for Islamic party rule throughout the region]. “We will not allow the immoral opposition to take this dream of a better life away from us," demonstrator Hamdy Sayed told The Media Line.
On the other hand, liberals who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood's rule, are equally adamant.
“Morsi escaped from prison with the help of foreign militias. Egypt and Egyptians don't support terrorism or terrorists," anti-Morsi demonstrator Yasmine Khatab told The Media Line from Tahrir Square.
Khatab was referring to the years Morsi spent in prison following allegations that he spied for a foreign country during the rule of Hosni Mubarak when the Moslem Brotherhood was outlawed. Morsi escaped at the beginning of the revolution that overthrew Mubarak in 2011, and in turn, accused the ousted president of corruption and of stifling democracy.
"Some people don't want democracy to succeed because it will not allow them to steal your money," Morsi said in his rambling late-night speech on Tuesday.
The embattled president added that Egypt is an independent state with challenges that will take time to overcome, claiming that thirty-two families control most of Egypt's wealth. Morsi lamented that supporters of the old regime don't like the democratic experiment going on in the country now.
Morsi’s supporters argue that he was elected through a democratic process and should therefore remain in power.
"The opposition [at the time] shoved an election process in our face -- 25 million Egyptians participated in the elections, and Morsi won. Now they are like kids who want to spoil a game because it doesn't go their way," Mohammed Zahran, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, told The Media Line.
In an effort to defuse the on-going tension in his remarks, Morsi spoke of an initiative for reforms that would include reviewing the articles of the constitution many Egyptians oppose and of bringing a better government to serve their needs. He stressed that he will protect the constitution and will lead an open dialogue with opposition groups for the benefit of all Egyptians.
Morsi also urged Egyptians not to clash with anyone from the army. "The army is the backbone of Egypt and all Egyptians need to respect it and let it protect Egypt from foreign enemies. Don't confront the army and don't use violence against it," the president admonished his constituents.
Egypt's key geopolitical position as the largest Arab country underscores its importance to the international community. It is the second-largest recipient of American foreign aid, just behind Israel with $3 billion annually. Some in Egypt fear that aid could be jeopardized if Egypt pursues an anti-democratic course.
Egyptians also stress their nation’s importance by referring to the Suez Canal, the vital waterway for global shipping; its strategic position bordering the Gaza Strip; and the importance the world community places in Egypt maintaining the Camp David peace treaty, in force since 1979.
There is concern that unless the Egyptian army remains vigilant and prevents chaos during the current crisis, the United States could reduce or retract its military support and find another player to help protect its interests in the region.
"The country is already divided between different religious and political factions; all they need are guns like in Libya,” Ahmed Seddik, a tour guide who voted for Morsi told The Media Line. He said that, “Egypt is lucky that Egyptians aren't that violent compared to places where similar revolutions took place.”