One of military’s top commanders, Gen. Ahmed Wasfi, arrived at el-Arish to lead operations there as the army declared a ‘‘war on terrorism’’ in Sinai. A crowd of Morsi supporters tried to storm the governor’s office in the city but were dispersed by security forces.
On the night of Morsi’s ouster, jihadi groups rallied in el-Arish, vowing to fight. ‘‘War council, war council,’’ a speaker shouted, according to online video of the rally. ‘‘No peacefulness after today.’’
Islamic militants hold a powerful sway in the lawless northern Sinai. They are heavily armed with weapons smuggled from Libya and have links with militants in the neighboring Gaza Strip, run by Hamas. After the attack, Egypt indefinitely closed its border crossing into Gaza, sending 200 Palestinians back into the territory, said Gen. Sami Metwali, director of Rafah passage.
At the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque rally earlier in the day, the crowd filled much of a broad boulevard, vowing to stay until Morsi is reinstated. The protesters railed against what they called the return of the Mubarak regime.
‘‘The old regime has come back ... worse than before,’’ said Ismail Abdel-Mohsen, an 18-year-old student at the mosque rally. He described the interim president as ‘‘the military puppet.’’
‘‘After sunset, President Morsi will be back in the palace,’’ they chanted. ‘‘The people want God’s law. Islamic, Islamic, whether the army likes it or not.’’
Many held copies of the Quran in the air, and much of the crowd had the long beards of ultraconservative men or encompassing black robes and veils worn by women.
One protester shouted that the sheik of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top Muslim cleric who backed the military, was ‘‘an agent of the Christians’’ — reflecting a sentiment that the Christian minority was behind Morsi’s ouster.
In southern Egypt, Islamists attacked the main church in the city of Qena. In the town of Dabaiya near the city of Luxor, a mob torched houses of Christians, sending dozens seeking shelter in a police station.
AP correspondent Tony G. Gabriel contributed to this report.