- - Thursday, November 22, 2012

CAIRO — The top leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood denounced peace efforts with Israel and urged holy war to liberate Palestinian territories on Thursday — one day after the country’s president, who hails from the movement, mediated a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians to end eight days of fierce fighting.

Meanwhile, President Mohammed Morsi issued constitutional amendments granting himself far-reaching powers and ordering the retrial of leaders of the regime of deposed President Hosni Mubarak for the killings of protesters in last year’s uprising.

In Israel and the Gaza Strip, the cease-fire held Thursday, even as Israel arrested 55 Palestinian “terror operatives” across the West Bank only hours after the truce went into effect.

The Israeli army said that a reserves officer died Thursday of wounds sustained in a rocket attack that occurred hours before the fighting stopped. He was identified as Lt. Boris Yarmulnik, 28. His death raises the toll of Israelis killed by rocket fire from Gaza to six since Nov. 14, two of them soldiers. More than 160 Palestinians were killed.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badei predicted that Israel will not abide by the cease-fire.

“The enemy knows nothing but the language of force. Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords,” he said in a statement carried on the group’s website and emailed to reporters.

His statement was a sharp deviation from the role played by Mr. Morsi in the past week. U.S. officials have hailed Egypt’s role in brokering the deal.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not recognize Israel, and its members refuse to hold direct talks with Israeli officials. But Mr. Morsi has said that he will abide by the terms of Egypt’s 1979 treaty with Israel, and many members say they are in little hurry to enter into armed conflict with the Jewish state.

Mr. Badei declared that “jihad is obligatory” for Muslims. He also said that taking up arms would be the “last stage,” only after Muslims achieve unity.

In the meantime, he called on Muslims to “back your brothers in Palestine.”

“Supply them with what they need, seek victory for them in all international arenas,” said Mr. Badei, officially known as the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Under the cease-fire deal, Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants are to stop rocket fire into Israel, while Israel is to cease attacks and allow the opening of the strip’s long-blockaded borders.

The Hamas-Israel fighting was the first major international test for Mr. Morsi, who was caught between either supporting Hamas, one of the Egyptian Brotherhood’s sister movements, and Cairo’s regional and international commitments.

Only a day after the cease-fire took hold, Mr. Morsi decreed himself sweeping powers that prompted one critic to declare him the new “pharaoh.”

“The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution,” according to a decree read on television by presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.

“The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal.”

The president in his pronouncements Thursday ordered “new investigations and retrials” in the cases dealing with the deaths of protesters, a decision that could net senior military officials.

Mr. Morsi also fired prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmud, whom he failed to oust last month, and appointed Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah to replace him.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate and former U.N. atomic energy agency chief, lashed out at the declaration, which effectively puts the president above judicial oversight.

“Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences,” ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter account.

In the West Bank, Israel said the Palestinians arrested Thursday were “affiliated with different terror groups.”

“Among those arrested were a number of senior-level operatives,” the army said in a statement.

Israeli public radio separately reported that those detained included members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, movements that are based in Gaza but also have representatives in the West Bank.

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