Clashes intensify in Egypt ahead of elections
Cairo (CNN) — Hundreds of Egyptian army and police forces pushed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square Sunday, making thousands of demonstrators flee in the face of tear gas and what sounded like live fire.
Four people died in the square, one during a stampede and two from blows to the head by an unidentified object, according to health ministry spokesman Dr. Adel al-Dawi. Two people died in Saturday’s unrest in Egypt.
Security forces were seen arresting and beating people. State media reported 192 people were injured in the square.
At least 1,114 people have been injured from the clashes across Egypt, the health ministry said Sunday.
But shortly after dark, violence seemed to have subsided in the square itself, with television pictures showing people milling around undisturbed.
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The government’s Cabinet said police did not use live rounds against demonstrators in Cairo and elsewhere, and that parliamentary elections will go on as scheduled later this month, state TV reported.
“The government asks that people contain themselves in order to express their points of view and to refrain from carrying out demonstrations that will encourage chaos and the deterioration of security in Egypt when Egypt requires stability and security,” the Cabinet said in a statement.
Mohamed Higazi, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office, said the government will continue dialogue on reaching a constitution that ensures the election of a civilian government.
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.
Clashes had broken out in the square earlier Sunday, the second day of unrest there ahead of the country’s elections.
By noon, Tahrir was fully occupied, with demonstrators barricading streets around the square and blocking traffic.
Eighteen people were arrested and transferred to a military prosecutor, Alaa Mahmoud of the interior ministry said before the security push into the square that was the symbolic heart of Egypt’s revolution at the beginning of the year.
The minister of education dismissed schools near the square for the day, according to state TV.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, but before the army joined them later in the day, the situation appeared calmer than on Saturday, when rifts between police and protesters left two people dead in two cities, the health ministry reported.
Also 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 elections, a prominent grassroots group urged 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 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 Saturday — 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.
CNN’s Guy Azriel, Saad Abedine, and Alexander Hunter and Journalist Ian Lee contributed to this report