Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed in Cairo after police fired tear gas into a minivan transporting prisoners who apparently started a riot.

Officers killed 36 detainees last night while trying to free a prison guard who had been taken hostage, according to Egyptian security officials.

The chaos in the country continued this morning as militants killed 25 policemen execution-style in an ambush in the Sinai Peninsula.

The attack apparently took place this morning as two minibuses carrying off-duty officers were driving through a village near the border town of Rafah.

 
Chaos: The violence in Egypt continued today as 24 policemen were killed in Sinai

Chaos: The violence in Egypt continued today as 24 policemen were killed in Sinai

The suspected militants forced the two vehicles to stop, ordered the policemen out and forced them to lie on the ground before they shot them to death, according to security officials.

Sinai, which marks the border between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip, has long been considered one of the main flashpoints in the Middle East.

It has witnessed almost daily attacks by Islamist militants ever since Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi was deposed last month in a military coup.

Yesterday 36 Morsi supporters who had been arrested during the widespread clashes which have rocked Cairo over the past week were killed as they were transported in a prison van.

The suspects were part of a prison truck convoy of some 600 detainees heading to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Egypt, security officials said.

Detainees in one of the trucks rioted and managed to capture a police officer inside, the authorities claimed.

 
Clashes: Hundreds have been killed since Egypt's president Mohammed Morsi was deposed

Clashes: Hundreds have been killed since Egypt’s president Mohammed Morsi was deposed

Security forces apparently fired tear gas into the truck in hopes of freeing the badly beaten officer, suffocating and killing the prisoners.

However, state media reported that the detainees were in fact trying to escape from the prison van and came under fire during the attempt.

Most of the prisoners were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is not clear whether all of them belonged to the organisation, which has repeatedly clashed with the military-backed interim regime.

The violence adds to the ever-rising death toll in days of unrest. On Saturday alone, clashes between Morsi supporters and police killed 79 people, according to the government.

That raised the death toll for four days of unrest across the country to nearly 900. Some 70 police officers were killed in clashes with protesters or retaliatory attacks during the same period, according to the Interior Ministry.

The clashes began on Wednesday when security forces dismantled two encampments of Morsi supporters in Cairo, who demanded his reinstatement. The military overthrew Morsi in a bloodless coup on July 3 after millions took to the street demanding him to step down.

The interim government declared a state of emergency after Wednesday’s clashes and imposed a curfew, turning the capital into a ghost town after 7pm every night. The government also began taking harsher measures to cripple the Brotherhood.

 
Lawless: A building in Sinai is shown in the aftermath of a bomb attack last week

Lawless: A building in Sinai is shown in the aftermath of a bomb attack last week

 

Security forces arrested hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members yesterday in raids on their homes in different cities, aimed at disrupting planned rallies to support Morsi.

The Cabinet also held an emergency meeting to discuss the possibility of banning the group, which swept to power in the country’s first democratic elections a year ago after years of being outlawed by Hosni Mubarak’s government.

Israeli officials said today that they were monitoring the turmoil and keeping in close contact with Egypt’s army, fearing that the ongoing chaos could jeopardise attempts to fight Islamic militants in Sinai.

The two countries signed a landmark peace treaty in 1979, and their militaries have had a close relationship ever since which has continued during the uprisings across the Arab world.

However, Israel is wary of taking sides in the dispute between the Egytian army and the Muslim Brotherhood.

‘Israel does not have to support the regime, especially not publicly, said Giora Eiland, a former chairman of Israel’s National Security Council. ‘It is not our place to defend all the measures taken, this is not our business.’

However, Eiland suggested that the international community had been overly hasty in criticising Egypt’s military, saying that Israeli and Western interests are ‘much closer’ to the army than the Brotherhood.

‘Even if we don’t share the same values, we can share the same interests,’ he said. ‘The Israeli interest is quite clear. We want a stable regime in Egypt.’

Israeli lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, a former defence minister and military chief of staff, said it was essential that peace and order be restored in Egypt.

‘The issue of the peace treaty with Egypt is Israel’s highest interest,’ he told Channel 2 TV. ‘As long as the violence, and the confrontation between the army and the civilians and the bloodshed there increases, it endangers the peace treaty. We have an interest that life there is quiet.’

Attack: The policemen were killed in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, near the border with Gaza and Israel

Attack: The policemen were killed in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, near the border with Gaza and Israel

 

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