Cairo: Egypt's army has deployed tanks outside the
presidential palace after a night of deadly clashes between
opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Mursi.
Four tanks and three armored personnel carriers were stationed
meters from the front gate of the palace in northern Cairo as
hundreds of Mursi's partisans chanted slogans in support of the
president early today, Al Jazeera reported.
At least five people
have been killed and over 440 people injured in the Egyptian
capital as pro- and anti-government protesters clashed near the
presidential palace on yesterday evening, the health ministry
Fighting continued into the early morning on Thursday with
fires burning in the streets where the opposing sides threw stones
and petrol bombs at each other.
"No to dictatorship," Mursi's
opponents chanted, while their rivals chanted: "Defending Mursi is
Riot police were sent in to break up the
violence on Wednesday, in which about 350 people were injured.
The opposition is demanding Mursi rescind a decree giving him
nearly unrestricted powers and shelve a disputed draft
constitution that the assembly passed hurriedly last week.
Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said hundreds of
protesters remained in the streets before dawn on Thursday, but
that most of Mursi's opponents had retreated.
A small group of
opposition activists had been camped outside the palace since
Tuesday night, when tens of thousands rallied against the
Supporters of Mursi marched to the palace on
Wednesday and tore down the opposition's tents.
they threw stones and used clubs to attack demonstrators.
Thirty-two people were arrested on Wednesday, according to a
statement from the interior ministry.
Protests spread to other cities, and offices of Mursi's Muslim
Brotherhood in Ismailia and Suez were torched. Both sides blamed
the other for starting the clashe.
Opposition leaders said Mursi
was responsible for the bloodshed, while senior Brotherhood
officials accused the opposition of "inciting violence".
not make any public appearances on Wednesday, but his prime
minister, Hisham Qandil, issued a brief statement calling for calm
"to give the opportunity for the efforts being made now to begin a
Hours after the clashes began, a spokesman for
the Brotherhood called on protesters to leave.
said both sides should "withdraw at the same time and pledge not
to return there, given the symbolism of the palace". Our
correspondent said the main message now was a call for dialogue.
"What's really significant and saddening, and very worrying for a
lot of people in this country watching their TV screens, is that
these are Egyptian civilians fighting Egyptian civilians," she
"The country is so divided and polarised. That has been the
situation for many months, but it was made all the more intense
two weeks ago when Mursi issued this constitutional decree giving
himself sweeping powers."
The crisis continues to divide Mursi's
government. Three of Mursi's advisers resigned in protest on
Wednesday. Two other top Mursi aides resigned last week, including
Samir Morcos, a prominent Coptic Christian scholar.
issued by Mursi on November 22 barred the courts from dissolving
the controversial 100-member constituent assembly which has been
drafting a new constitution. A final draft of the document was
sent to Mursi last week, and it is scheduled to face a public
referendum on December 15.
While protesters battled outside, Vice President Mahmoud Mekki
held a news conference inside the palace and tried to calm the
He urged the opposition to rein in street protests, and
said political groups could agree on a plan to amend contentious
articles after a new parliament is elected in 2013.
He called for
"communication between political forces" on the document.
must be consensus," he said. "There is real political will to pass
the current period and respond to the demands of the public."
group of prominent opposition leaders, including Mohamed ElBaradei,
Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, held a press conference in Cairo
on Wednesday night and dismissed Mekki's offer.
ElBaradei said the
opposition is open to dialogue, but not until Mursi revokes his
All three men blamed Mursi for the violence outside the
"He has lost the moral legitimacy to lead
Egypt," said Sabbahi, who placed third in the presidential
election earlier this year.
But the Muslim Brotherhood quickly
turned around and blamed their opponents for the clashes.
el-Haddad, a senior adviser to the Freedom and Justice Party,
accused the three opposition leaders of "inciting violence".
very sad to see opposition leaders such as ElBaradei, Hamdeen and
Amr Moussa to resort to such levels of talk," he told Al Jazeera.
"Such disrespect to the sanctity of peaceful protesting, within
the context of democracy, is very alarming."