Abdel Fattah Sisi

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi are detained by security forces at the Rabaa al-Adawiyya protest camp. Getty

Egypt’s security forces on Wednesday launched a much-anticipated operation to clear supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from two protest camps in the capital, leaving scores dead and prompting protests around the country from Mr Morsi’s Islamist sympathizers, who clashed with police and attacked churches in southern Egypt.

Polarisation between opponents and supporters of the president increased dramatically in the wake of the popularly-backed coup that removed Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, from office on July 3. He has languished in detention since, prompting his supporters to accuse the security forces of undermining democracy. Opponents of the former president accuse him of trying to impose an Islamist vision on Egypt and say the military coup was needed to ‘save’ the country. International efforts to mediate between Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and the interim government, backed by the powerful defence minister Gen Abdel Fattah Sisi, failed as neither side showed willingness to compromise.

As the Islamist protest camps became increasingly disruptive in the traffic-choked capital and leaks of an imminent operation to clear them grew, the protesters vowed they would remain until Mr Morsi was restored to power, with some claiming they would rather die as martyrs than give up their protest. Warnings by activists, rights groups and some politicians that their forcible removal could ignite a cycle of violence were ignored and the Arab world’s most populous nation is once again riven by unrest.

Here is our pick of background reads on the latest episode in Egypt’s turbulent transition.