Clashes in Egypt before elections
Cairo (CNN) — Clashes broke out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a second day Sunday amid controversy ahead of the country’s elections.
By noon Sunday, Tahrir was fully occupied, with demonstrators barricading streets around the square and blocking traffic.
Eighteen people were arrested and transferred to a military prosecutor, according to Alaa Mahmoud of the interior ministry. The minister of education dismissed schools near the square for the day, according to state TV.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, but the situation appeared calmer than on Saturday, when rifts between police and protesters left two people dead in two cities, the health ministry reported.
Egypt Islamist fears
At least 928 people have been injured from the clashes in Egypt, the health ministry said Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Israeli envoy Yitzhak Levanon was back in Cairo. In September, protesters stormed and ransacked the Israeli embassy there. Egyptian demonstrators tore down a wall surrounding the building that houses the embassy, entered the embassy’s offices and threw papers from the windows.
Less than two weeks before Egypt’s parliamentary elections, a prominent grassroots group for citizens to resist the military-led government.
The April 6 Movement, which figured prominently in the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak this year, issued a statement urging its members to descend on Cairo’s Tahrir Square “immediately because resistance is the only solution.”
“Down with military rule,” the movement said.
Fighting erupted Saturday when police worked to clear Tahrir of people who remained after Friday’s massive protests. Tens of thousands turned out Friday to protest plans for a constitution that would shield the military from public oversight.
Thousands of protesters chanted over the weekend against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which rules Egypt, and Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the council who is effectively the interim ruler of Egypt.
Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks and torched a police van. Scuffles broke out on side streets and clouds of smoke rose from burned tires, witnesses said.
Clashes between protesters and police also reportedly broke out in the cities of Suez and Alexandria.
Two people died after being shot — one in Cairo, one in Alexandria — said Adel al-Dawi, a spokesman for the health ministry. The health ministry also said 40 police officers were among the injured.
The Cabinet held an emergency meeting and warned the clashes could have a dangerous impact on Egypt, state media said.
The Friday throng, dominated by Islamist parties but including secular protesters as well, turned out ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections set to begin on November 28.
Yousri Hamad, the official spokesman of the Al Noor Salafi Muslim political party, said he thinks that the violence could affect election plans.
“The protesters are a bunch of kids that attacked the security forces, which is a red line and could delay elections,” Hamad said.
A military spokesman said Sunday the elections will take place as scheduled.
The military said it wants to transfer power to a civilian parliament and president, but many citizens are dissatisfied with the pace of the transition and the resolve of the military rulers.
Protesters are upset about proposed principles for the constitution, in which the military’s budget would not be scrutinized by civilian powers. They worry that the military would be shaped as a state within a state.
CNN’s Guy Azriel and Alexander Hunter contributed to this report