President Morsi faced his first test in early August 2012, when militants shot and killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at an army checkpoint in Egypt"s Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel. Several of the militants then drove into Israel, where their vehicle was destroyed by the Israeli military. Despite increased jihadist activity and warnings about a potential attack in the Sinai, the Egyptian Army was caught unprepared. Morsi ordered an airstrike on the Sinai, which killed about 20 militants. On Aug. 12, Morsi dismissed or "reassigned" several senior generals and the heads of each service branch of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), an influential force in Egypt that has effectively been in control since the fall of Hosni Mubarak and recently been in a power struggle with the new civilian government. Defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, a power broker in Egypt, was among the leaders Morsi stripped of his position. Morsi also voided a constitutional declaration imposed by the military that limited the role of the president, and implemented a new order that vastly expanded his power and that of the legislature. The bold move sent a clear message that the civilian government had taken back control of the country.
The attack in the Sinai highlighted the importance—and fragility—of the relationship between Israel and Egypt in dealing with the explosive nature of the region.
Protests broke out at the U.S. embassy in Cairo in September over the release of a YouTube film, Innocence of Muslims, which insulted the Prophet Muhammad and criticized Islam. Demonstrators stormed the walls of the embassy and ripped down the American flag. President Morsi was slow to respond to the protests and issued only a tepid condemnation of the violence, prompting a call from President Barack Obama, who warned that relations between the U.S. and Egypt will suffer if he fails to take stronger action against anti-American violence. The protests coincided with similar actions in Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Indonesia, and