CAIRO (AP) — Supporters and opponents of Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi pelted each other with rocks and fought with sticks outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Wednesday, as a new round of protests deepened the country's political crisis.
The opposition is demanding Morsi rescind decrees giving him near unrestricted powers and shelve a disputed draft constitution that the president's Islamist allies passed hurriedly last week.
The dueling demonstrations and violence are part of a political crisis that has left the country divided into two camps: Morsi, his Muslim Brotherhood and their ultraconservative Islamist allies, versus an opposition made up of youth groups, liberal parties and large sectors of the public. Both sides have dug in their heels, signaling a protracted standoff.
The clashes began when thousands of Islamist supporters of Morsi descended on the area around the palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. The Islamists, members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, chased the protesters away from their location outside the palace's main gate and tore down their tents. The protesters scattered in side streets where they chanted anti-Morsi slogans.
At least 100,000 opposition supporters rallied outside the palace on Tuesday, the latest of a series of mass protests against the president. Also Tuesday, smaller protests were staged by the opposition elsewhere in Cairo and across much of Egypt.
No casualties were immediately reported but witnesses reported blood streaming down the faces of several protesters.
Several opposition groups said they were calling on their supporters to head to the palace area, a move that portends more violence.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition advocate of reform and democracy, accused the president's supporters of a "vicious and deliberate" attack against peaceful demonstrators.
"This, in my view, is the end of any legitimacy this regime has," said the Nobel Peace laureate. "A regime that is not able to protect its people and is siding with his own sect, (and) thugs is a regime that lost its legitimacy and is leading Egypt into violence and bloodshed," he told The Associated Press.