Egypt’s former Defence Minister, Field Marshal Tantawi, accused Palestinians from Gaza of committing the recent attack in Sinai in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed. This led to a heated argument with President Morsi and, eventually, to Tantawi’s enforced “retirement”, along with several of his senior army colleagues.
The quarrel, claims the Sama News Agency, took place at the presidential palace in Heliopolis during a National Defence Council meeting to discuss the repercussions of the Rafah incident and the security situation in the Sinai.
According to the report, Tantawi told President Morsi that the armed forces and intelligence services had information about the involvement of Israeli-paid Palestinian elements in the attack. That, Tantawi insisted, called for the complete and final closure of the Rafah border crossing because it posed a threat to Egypt’s national security.
In response, Morsi asked why, if it was available, did such information not lead the authorities to take action. The president, it is claimed, said that he will not allow the border to be closed indefinitely and that Hamas is not a suspect in what was a criminal operation. Tantawi apparently rejected the president’s defence of Gaza, stressing that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is the body to open or close the border and that this role should not get “confused”. Morsi, reports Sama, interrupted the Field Marshall to remind him that the president is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
When the president then held an unscheduled meeting with Lt. General Sami Anan to tell him that he would be the new Defence Minister, replacing Tantawi, Anan told him that SCAF had decided to keep the Field Marshall in the role. While respecting the decision of SCAF, President Morsi then issued a decree forcing both Tantawi and Anan into retirement.