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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Islamists, Security Forces Clash in Kerdasa

Kerdasa, a town nine miles outside of Cairo, was the scene of violent clashes between Egyptian security forces and armed gunmen earlier today.  Army and police vehicles and helicopters flooded the town as the state attempted to wrest control of the area from armed Islamists. A police general was killed in the clashes, and security forces arrested over 40 people. After state security forces killed hundreds of protesters while dispersing pro-Morsi sit-ins in mid-August, some supporters of the deposed president have taken over towns and launched attacks on state buildings. Egyptian police and army officers have arrested over 2000 people since Morsi was deposed in July.

Egypt Partially Opens Gaza Crossing

Egypt temporarily reopened its border with the Gaza strip to allow two buses filled with passengers to cross into the country on Wednesday. Hundreds of people remained at the gates, waiting to exit Gaza. Egypt closed the border last week when armed gunmen crashed two vehicles filled with explosives into a state-owned building close to the crossing. The Palestinian Authority and the Egyptian government agreed to let passengers through who were in dire need of humanitarian aid and/or were students studying in Egypt. Almost two million Palestinians live in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, and the Rafah crossing is one of their only gateways to the outside world. Egypt has closed the border three times since President Morsi was ousted in early July.

 Curfew Reduced

Egyptian authorities announced that the state-imposed curfew which applies to 14 governorates in the country will now begin at 12:00 am and end at 5:00 am, beginning this Saturday. Fridays, however, remain the exception; curfew will still start at 7:00 pm.  The move comes after weeks of pro-Morsi protests which failed to garner widespread support, and in the wake of an intensive security crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members, pro-Morsi protesters, anti-military activists,  journalists and political dissidents.

Government Employees Get New Minimum Wage

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Al Beblawi announced today that the public sector minimum wage will be set at LE 1200 ($174) per month, up from LE 700 ($101.50) which was the minimum wage in 2011.  Officials said that more research and dialogue was needed in order to set a private-sector minimum wage. “Representatives of workers and employers will meet on Sunday to resume talks over the minimum wage, and the Cabinet will meet on Wednesday to make a decision,” Al Beblawi’s deputy advisor said. 71 percent of Egyptians work in the private sector, and more than a quarter of all Egyptians live below the poverty level.

 Egypt’s Wheat Woes

Egypt, which faced a looming wheat shortage a few months ago, has reached a deal with Russia according to an Egyptian official. Russia pledged to supply Egypt with wheat over the next 3-5 years and invest in wheat silos. Russia is also reportedly planning to lift their ban on Russian citizens traveling to Egypt. In July, the Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Egypt would run out of wheat in mid-December if they didn’t receive new shipments. Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, and Egyptians consume around 750,000 tons of wheat a month.

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