BEIRUT -- Egypt restricted the ability of Syrians to enter the country yesterday, with officials citing reports that a large number of Syrians were backing the Muslim Brotherhood, which is engaged in a bloody standoff over the military's ouster of leader Mohammed Morsi.
The decision dealt a blow to Syria's main Western-backed opposition group that is leading the fight against President Bashar Assad from its headquarters in Cairo.
Egyptian authorities began requiring Syrians to get visas before arriving in the country, according to officials and opposition figures, many of whom live in the Egyptian capital.
Veteran Syrian opposition figure Haitham Maleh said he was held up for several hours at the airport in Cairo yesterday before he was allowed entry "after several political sides intervened with Egyptian authorities" on his behalf.
"This Egyptian decision is a reward to Bashar Assad for all the Syrians he has killed," Maleh said from Cairo last night. Dozens of Syrian families with no money were denied entry, he said, and two planes carrying Syrians were returned to Syria and Lebanon, where they originated.
The Syrian National Coalition said it regretted any crimes committed by Syrian nationals in Egypt and said Syrians "must not be punished for individual criminal acts." Syria's conflict pits a rebel movement rife with Islamist groups against Assad. The Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has played a large role in attempts to create a leadership in exile. -- AP