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U.S. nixes Egypt drill over civilian deaths, completes Navy exercise with Israel

(JTA) — Israel and the United States concluded a joint military naval exercise as President Obama canceled a U.S.-Egyptian drill due to civilian deaths in Cairo demonstrations.

Obama told reporters on Thursday that aid cuts could be coming if Egypt’s military government does not stop its bloody crackdown on protesters and move quickly to new elections, USA Today reported.

His statements on Egypt came as Israeli and American vessels were wrapping up their Reliant Mermaid 103 exercise, which combines 10 days of training in the Mediterranean Sea on search and rescue capabilities, according to a statement by the Israel Defense Forces.

The exercise included a guided-missile destroyer from the U.S. 6th Fleet, as well as missile boats from the Israeli Navy.

Referring to Egypt, Obama told reporters that his government “strongly condemns” the violence there but added that continued U.S. “engagement” with the interim government in Cairo will help it transition back to democracy.

“But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” Obama said from his vacation home at Martha’s Vineyard.

The death toll stood at at least 600, with dozens of fatalities reported Friday in Tahrir Square in Cairo and beyond.

The U.S. provides Egypt with about $1.3 billion in aid per year.

Obama spoke a day after Egypt’s interim government used force to clear encampments created by backers of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The action triggered violent clashes throughout the country, as the government has declared a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.

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