Riot police are spreading tear gas and firing rubber bullets as the crowd of stone-throwing protesters at Egypt’s Tahrir Square begins to swell. RT’s Paula Slier reports from Cairo that the situation on the ground remains extremely tense.
Some of the rubber bullets have gone astray, hitting residential buildings nearby and starting fires. Paula has encountered at least a dozen ambulances and a fire brigade quickly responding.
Tear gas was burning Paula’s eyes, and RT’s crew had to go inside one of the nearby buildings to take shelter so they could rinse their eyes with water.
Watch RT's Paula Slier's earlier report from the affected residential area
The crowd surrounded the RT crew and started yelling and screaming, asking who they were. As Paula was walking to her LIVE broadcast position she crossed through the center of Tahrir Square. Quite a few people came up to her and quickly hurried her to the side, advising her that, with a clearly foreign face, it is very dangerous to be in the square for the moment.
People who left in the early hours of Monday morning to go home to have some sleep and food are returning.
The sense Paula gets from the mood of the crowd is that there is going to be more violence, but much depends on how the police and security forces respond.
However, independent online journalist James Corbett says that this demonstration is unlikely to turn into a new revolution. He says what is going on in Egypt is the predictable result of a revolution that failed to do what it set out to.
Paula spoke to some of the protesters, who say that they are ready for whatever happens.
There are very few women there, most of the people are young men, extremely angry and incredibly frustrated. Many are walking around with bandaged wounds after Sunday’s violence. An Egyptian morgue official says in the last three days, 24 people have been killed and more than a thousand injured. Other reports claim that 35 people have been killed since Saturday.
Monday's clashes are also taking place near the Interior Ministry, which is close to Tahrir Square.
General Saeed Abbas, assistant to the head of Central Command, denied on Monday that the army is trying to disperse protesters from Tahrir square. He said that the army is preventing them from assembling at the Interior Ministry.
"The army did not go to Tahrir but the protesters came to the ministry. The protesters have a right to protest, but we must stand between them and the Interior Ministry," he said.
Abbas said the Interior Ministry had officially requested protection from the army.
He added that similar protection would be offered to protesters in Tahrir if they asked for it.
Speaking at the square, he denied information spread in the mass media that security forces are attacking protesters. He said that their actions are in response to protesters’ actions against the army.
A shocking video has been released in the internet showing the violent crackdown of police and security during the protests over the weekend.
Viewers may find some of the images distressing.
Mark Almond, visiting professor of international relations at Turkey's Bilkent University believes different actors are behind the continuing violence in Egypt, and nobody is quite certain whom to blame.
“In addition to the political violence which we’ve seen over the weekend and more recently – some of the religious violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims there is a great crime wave taking place in Egypt,” he told RT. “And this is creating a great deal of insecurity. People are arming themselves. A lot of weapons flowing around the country and into the country. And some people think the generals, perhaps, are hoping to create more insecurity, so that people say 'we need security, we turn to who stays in power to crack down'. Other people think that in fact it’s been stirred up by the groups who hope to take advantage of the chaos, saying “we need total change and we need not wait for the election”. And the elections are shaped out in such a way as to make not for decisive results, but for a long drawn-out process that would only raise doubt, suspicions, rumors and so on.”
Professor Almond added that the West is now very worried that Egypt is not going to follow the path they hoped for – a smooth transition to the government.
“Now there is the worry that perhaps democracy is not going to produce the right result and the democratic countries of the West are in a dilemma – how far should they support people who would do what they want and how far should they accept what is going in Egypt,” he stated.
Meanwhile, France has expressed concern about the clashes in Cairo, which have already claimed dozens of lives. French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero told journalists that Paris condemns the killing of pro-democracy protesters in Egypt, and calls for elections to be held as planned next week, to aid the country's democratic transition.
"France reiterates its support for the pursuit of the democratic transformation in Egypt, which should in 2012 result in the transfer of power to elected legislative and executive civilian authorities," Valero said.