(Cairo, Egypt) -- The anti-government sit-in continued in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Thursday (December 6) as Egyptian army tanks deployed outside the presidential palace in streets where supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Mursi had clashed into the early hours of the morning in violence that killed five people.
The square is closed to traffic and tents fill the grass area in the middle of what is usually a busy roundabout.
The health ministry said five people had been killed and 350 wounded in bloodshed that has exacerbated the worst crisis since Mursi took office as Egypt's first president since a popular uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011.
The focal point for demonstrators angry at Mursi's decree of November 22 putting him above legal challenge and his push to rush through a controversial constitution shifted on Tuesday (December 4).
Mursi has shown no sign of buckling under pressure from protesters, confident that the Islamists, who have dominated both elections since Mubarak was overthrown, can win the referendum and parliamentary election to follow.
"Mohamed Mursi has divided the nation and this will not do. The solution is that we were asking for the cancellation of the decree. Now we want Mursi to fall and the Brotherhood because the Brotherhood are traitors," said protester Ahmed Saleh al-Ansawy.
For protester Mohammed Abou Azid, Mursi could have stopped the bloodshed but had not done so. "He (Mursi) didn't come out yesterday and stop the violence that was happening despite the fact that one word from him could have solved all the problems that were happening. If he had told them to move back they would have - the five people that died - it's tragic. Every day people die - for two years now, people have been dying and it's the same thinking, nothing new, they don't learn from those that came before them," Azid said.
Shaimaa Ahmed said any leader who expects Egyptians not to have changed since the revolution is not fit to lead the nation.
"We did not have a revolution just to return to the era of Mubarak and worse," she said.
"What is happening in the streets is something we never imagined could happen in Egypt after the the revolution of the 25th and any ruler who thinks that Egypt's people will remain the same people from before the revolution, with the same thinking and the same consequences then this is a ruler who does not deserve to sit in the seat of power," Ahmed added.
Mursi's opponents say the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled the president to power in a June election, is behind the violence. The Brotherhood says the opposition is to blame and that the five dead were all Mursi supporters.
"When Egypt reaches a point, after a revolution, where a brother kills his brother; that the people of one nation have reached a point where they carry weapons against each other and slaughter each other - this is not democracy. This is terrorism, terrorism from the ruling party, because I haven't seen in the past and in the developed nations of the world what we've seen currently - he has the state's legitimate power yet he sends his supporters against his opposition - this has never happened in any other country in the world - this is political thuggery," said Um Ali (mother of Ali), a demonstrator in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Egyptian army tanks deployed outside the presidential palace on Thursday. Armoured troop carriers also moved into the roads around the palace, in what Egypt's state news agency said was a measure to secure the palace.
The army's deployment effectively separated supporters of the Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood from supporters of the opposition with whom they fought street battles throughout the night.
Mursi has defended his decree as necessary to prevent courts still full of judges appointed by Mubarak from derailing a constitution vital for Egypt's political transition.
Brotherhood supporter Ibrahim Abdul-Wahid said that the opposition had used paid thugs to attack peaceful Mursi supporters, and set upon them with stones and guns.
"The people who are responsible are the people who are inciting the paid thugs, and using them. Okay, object, be in opposition to us, that's fine. But don't do so using thugs, do it peacefully," he said.
Sheikh Ilam al-Mahrawi said that the largely liberal opposition should participate in a planned referendum on the new constitution and not fear the popular will.
"The ballot box represents the people and legitimacy and it will determine what is right from what is illegitimate. And there is going to be a referendum. Perhaps there will be some flaws. Why are they [the opposition] always afraid of the ballot box? Whenever there is an election or a referendum, they are afraid of the ballot box, and it is because they know the people are not on their side," he said.
An opposition group has called for more protests at the palace later on Thursday, setting the stage for further confrontation.
A presidential source said Mursi, silent in the last few days, was expected to make a statement later on Thursday.
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