Four people have been killed and some 350 injured as clashes between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s president continue in Cairo. The escalating violence forced several top officials to resign, including the chief of the constitutional committee.
The Egyptian Health Ministry says that four people were killed in the clashes outside the presidential palace, with over 300 wounded across Cairo, Al Jazeera reports. The Egypt Independent reports that one woman and a teenager are among the dead.
According to the interior ministry, 32 people were arrested. Sporadic clashes continued through the night into Thursday morning.
Zaghloul El-Balshi, the general secretary of the supreme committee on the constitutional referendum, announced his resignation in a televised interview Wednesday night.
“I will not participate in a referendum that spilled Egyptian blood,” he said, as cited by Ahram Online. “I call on Morsi to cancel the constitutional declaration immediately.”
The volatile situation led to the resignation of at least three more advisors to Morsi, including insiders Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman Sayyad and Amr Leithy.
President Morsi canceled his public appearance on Wednesday. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil issued a brief statement calling for calm and “national dialogue.”
RT's correspondent Tom Barton reports "a pandemonium" in front of the Ittihadia presidential palace, where a violent standoff between rival demonstrations continues.
Thousands of Morsi supporters and opponents attacked each other with petrol bombs, stones and sticks outside the president's residence in Cairo. Gunshots could be heard, reporters said, describing the scene as "a disaster zone."
Journalist Wael Eskandar reporting from the scene told RT he is worried that the government will not adequately respond to the ongoing clashes.
“There’s no presence of the police or military at all, despite weapons that we can hear and see,” he said. “Fighting the authorities was clear to the protesters, but now they are fighting other civilians. This could develop into a more chaotic situation.”
Eskandar said that the anti-Morsi protesters are being chased away by Muslim Brotherhood supporters who use rocks, Molotov cocktails and even “shotguns.”
“So far the anti-Morsi protesters aren’t armed,” he added. “I’m not sure, but if some of them would feel that they require arms, and if they get arms, it might get really bloody.”
Security forces had to boost their presence at the scene in a bid to separate the rival parties, but demonstrators continued swarming in from different directions.
Demonstrators have also set fire to and attacked a number of Muslim Brotherhood offices throughout the country, according to local media. Offices in Ismailia and Damietta, north of Cairo, were attacked. Molotov cocktails were thrown into offices in Zagazig and thousands from the opposition are marching to the party's headquarters in Suez.
The volatile situation led to the resignation of at least three more advisors to Morsi including Dr. Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman Sayyad and Amr Leithy.
Watch RT's telephone interview with Wael Eskandar, an Egyptian journalist and blogger, who was caught in Cairo clashes
Earlier on Wednesday, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a rally backing President Morsi in front of the presidential palace, while leftists planned a counter-protest there. Initial reports from the scene suggested that demonstrators were clashing with police. Now it appears the violence flared up after a thousand-strong pro-Morsi column marched into the square where the president's opponents were staging a sit-in and attempted to "cleanse the place."
Muslim Brotherhood supporters destroyed the opposition's tent camp. Security Forces appeared on the scene two hours into the clashes forming human barriers to separate the warring sides, say local media.
Sporadic scuffles in Tahrir Square were also reported.
The violence broke out shortly after President Morsi returned to the palace. Despite the recent developments, Morsi and his office insist the constitutional referendum will proceed as planned on December 15. Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekky said that "the door is open" to amend the disputed articles of the Constitution ahead of the referendum.
“There must be consensus,” Mekky said, expecting a dialogue to begin soon with the opposition to end the crisis.
“The demands of opposition protesters must be respected,” he noted, adding “I am completely confident that if not in the coming hours, in the next few days we will reach a breakthrough in the crisis and consensus.”
The opposition aliance has reportedly turned down Mekky's suggestion unless Morsi’s recent declaration is retracted.
The crisis forced several privately owned TV channels to break a strike to cover the clashes. ONTV, ONTV Live, Dream TV, Dream TV 2, Al-Hayat Network and the CBC network planned a blackout from 6pm to 12am on Wednesday to object to clauses in the draft constitution related to press freedoms. But as the clashes unfolded, the broadcasters resumed transmission, reports Ahram Online daily.
On Tuesday, Morsi was forced to flee his residence after violent clashes broke out between demonstrators and police. Around 10,000 demonstrators gathered near Morsi’s palace in Cairo to protest his decree granting his office vastly expanded powers, and a draft constitution that was quickly adopted by his allies.
The demonstrators dubbed their siege "the last warning" demanding the decrees be cancelled.
Violence on Tuesday saw 18 people injured, with police firing tear gas to stop the crowds from assaulting Morsi’s residence. Hundreds of anti-Morsi demonstrators then moved to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to spend the night in a tent encampment erected almost two weeks ago.