"It should not be excluded. It's possible. It depends on how things unfold." This was the response of a state official when asked about the possible declaration of a state of emergency – which some suspect might last for the entire duration of the transitional phase.
The speculation about a new state of emergency began when interim President Adly Mansour authorised Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi to grant the armed forces the power of arrest.
According to informed sources, the defence and interior ministers, as well as the intelligence chief, informed Mansour of “serious threats of terrorist attacks against state institutions.”
It also came hours after at least 80 Muslim Brotherhood members were killed by police while there were allegedly trying to expand the size of their month-long sit-in in Cairo's Nasr City, against the wishes of local residents.
The killing of a large number of Brotherhood members was the second since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi on 3 July.
Neither prompted serious public sympathy. In fact, Saturday's killings occurred hours after millions took to the streets to back army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's request for an unchecked mandate to launch a “war on terror.”
"Our reports suggest we have uncontested support from most of the public," a senior security source said.
"The people are fully aware that the army and the police are on their side. The people have no sympathy left for the Muslim Brotherhood after what they saw during the rule of Morsi."
Inaugurated on 30 June 2012 as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, a member of the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood, was a highly polarising figure who presided over serious economic decline and bitter political disputes during his year in office.
Morsi's failure to adopt political reforms, observe the ‘official’ independence of the judiciary and to assign an efficient and politically diverse cabinet led to widespread protests calling for his ouster after he had declined repeated appeals for early presidential elections. The army stepped in to remove Morsi from the presidency after millions attended nationwide protests demanding his ouster.
Speaking on conditions of anonymity, informed security, military, and political sources say the army was deeply unhappy with Morsi.
"It has been a tough year and the military has put up with so much," said one military source.
The accounts offered by this and other sources indicate an "awareness" by the military and intelligence of "illicit involvement by the Brotherhood in the attack that killed 16 borders guards last year. It is only an open secret that [Morsi] did this to get rid of the army leadership," said the military source.
Removing the top army leaders who had governed Egypt after the January 25 Revolution, Tantawi and Anan, went against a set of legal arrangements that had limited Morsi's presidential prerogatives in favour of the army.
The move was met with wide public support and the army bowed in view of the already declining popularity of the removed leaders and upon the demand of Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the new head of the army who had widespread popularity.
Rabaa Al-Adawiya killings
“It was out of the question to allow the [pro-Morsi sit-in] to expand. They know their sit-in is disturbing the neighbours and is hampering traffic. We know the purpose of the sit-in is to provide a large human shield for the cowardly leaders who are hiding behind the people at Rabaa Al-Adawiyah mosque,” said a security source.
“But whatever happened we were not going to allow them to seize the military dignitaries' podium, the unknown soldier memorial and the tomb of [late president] Anwar Sadat.”
The podium was being used by Sadat when he was assassinated by Islamist soldiers during a military parade in 1981. His body was buried opposite the podium.
At a press conference held hours after Saturday's death toll was announced as 75, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who was originally appointed by Morsi, said his forces would eventually disperse the two major Brotherhood sit-ins at Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiyah mosque and Al-Nahda Square in Giza.
Speaking to Ahram Online on Sunday, a security source said the police would act promptly with "full legal coverage and massive public support."
He added, "If the Muslim Brotherhood want to avert further bloodshed then they must bow to the rule of law and go home."
A number of political figures have been calling for a way out of the dangerous face-off.
Interim Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei has been in touch with key political figures, including Islamists, calling for "wisdom to prevail."
An informed source said ElBaradei was attempting to persuade Brotherhood leaders to limit and eventually disperse their sit-ins peacefully in return for guarantees that regular protesters would not be persecuted and all leaders would have a transparent litigation process if or when they were arrested.
"One could say he is trying but it is hard to say if something will come of [ElBaradei's] efforts," said an informed source.
He added that the next few days might see some active political consultations but "it all depends on the Islamists because if they insist on Morsi's reinstatement we are not going anywhere. Also, if they insist the legal charges against Morsi should be automatically dropped and that he and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders should be able to leave Egypt, then this will not work either."