CAIRO - Egypt's government of interim political appointees overseen by the army has said little about the clearing out of Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that led to street battles and more than 600 dead Egyptians.
The military-backed interim government ushered in by Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi after an ouster July 3 of elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi has said forcing an end to massive protests against the ouster was necessary for national security.
Those who hoped for more, such as indications of remorse for the victims, including those killed by the Brotherhood, or an announcement of a plan for political reconciliation, have been disappointed.
"It seems the only strategy the government is adopting now is the use of force and not a political solution to the crisis," said Mazen Hassan, a political science lecturer at Cairo University.
"We will only see more casualties and further instability," Hassan said.
In a televised address Wednesday on the first day of widespread violence, Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi described the melee as a "difficult day." He offered no apologies and said the situation had reached a point the state could no longer tolerate.
Islamists who supported Morsi's policies emphasizing more adherence to Islamic law burned a Giza governor's complex Thursday and marched again Friday after having engaged in retaliatory attacks on security forces, government posts and Christian properties nationwide.
In the weeks leading up to the violence, as the population of the camps grew, authorities repeated demands that the Brotherhood disband its camps and join talks for a new elected government.
As the Brotherhood refused, the government characterized the camps as threats to national security for blocking roads and harboring terrorism. It warned that they would be eliminated by force, and some experts say the government felt it was inevitable that the standoff could end only in violence.
"The military and security apparatus felt that this had to come to a head," said Tarek Radwan, associate director for research at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
By cracking down on the camps, the military leadership led by Al-Sisi could be seen as restoring the path to democracy and responding to the "will of the Egyptian people," Radwan said. He could consolidate sympathy and the idea that the group needed to be cracked down on as a threat to people's security.
The crackdown gave police a chance to reassert themselves after having been discredited for the abuse they heaped on Egyptians under dictator Hosni Mubarak, Radwan said.
"But my God, at what cost?" Radwan said. "None of this was inevitable."
While the Brotherhood framed the protest attack as a slaughter, the deaths of 43 police personnel supported claims of Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim that protesters possessed weapons and used them.
"A big quantity of arms, live ammunition and Molotov cocktail bottles were found in the sites of the two sit-ins," the State Information Service said.
This was no peaceful protest, said the government, which controls much of what people read and hear in Egypt. It was the "terrifying of citizens, acts of thuggery, sabotage, assault on the public and private facilities and incitement to violence." There was no need to apologize for disbanding a protest whose aim was to stand in the way of "building a democratic state where the law, security and stability prevail," the government said.
There were allegations to support the government claims. Anti-Morsi protesters told Amnesty International that they were captured, beaten, electrically shocked and stabbed by individuals loyal to Morsi.
"Since mass rival rallies began in late June, as of 28 July, eight bodies have arrived at the morgue in Cairo bearing signs of torture," Amnesty International said in an Aug. 2 report. "At least five of these were found near areas where pro-Morsi sit-ins were being held."
Protesters and sit-in leaders denied allegations of violence or arms possession and organized tours before this week to show that protesters were peaceful.
"We didn't even have a single knife," said hard-line Islamist Hesham Al Ashry after he and others were pushed from the Rabaa Al-Adawiya protest site Wednesday. "Well, we had knives for cooking."
"We didn't shoot. We didn't kill anyone," he said.
There was plenty of evidence of the security forces killing unarmed protesters. Aside from the sheer number of deaths and injuries from bullets, a nine-minute video posted online documents scenes at the Rabaa protest camp.
A group of protesters on the video did not have weapons; some defended themselves by throwing stones. Some of them were seen later shot and limp on the ground.
Protesters hid behind a wall amid sounds of gunfire. An armored vehicle was positioned feet from those crouching for cover.
Several Arab and Egyptian rights groups have sided with the protesters, slamming authorities for excessive force even if some protesters used violence.
"That some participants in the sit-in and its leaders committed criminal acts, were in possession of weapons and engaged in violence does not give the security authorities a license to impose collective punishment and use excessive force when dispersing the sit-in, according to international standards for the right of peaceful assembly," said a group of nine Arab rights groups in a joint statement.
"Based on the initial testimonies and other evidence we've gathered, there seems to be little doubt the security forces have been acting with blatant disregard for human life, and full investigations that are both impartial and independent are urgently needed," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program director at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International said that although some protesters used violence, the response was "grossly disproportionate."
"Security forces resorted to lethal force when it was not strictly necessary to protect lives or prevent serious injury - this is a clear violation of international law and standards" it said. "Previous promises to use graduated force when dispersing the sit-ins and provide ample warning and safe exits were quickly broken."
Sarah Lynch, USA TODAY