- Middle East/North Africa
Ahmed Omar, Health Ministry spokesperson said Tuesday night that 27 people have been injured so far in the protests at the presidential palace in Heliopolis.
The head of ambulance services said earlier in a statement that the injuries are mostly bruises and difficulty breathing due to the tear gas. He reported that there have been no deaths.
Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Central Security Forces did not withdraw from the area, but were relocated after protesters tried to cross the barbed wire around the palace.
The minister stressed that the demonstrations at the palace and Tahrir Square are peaceful, adding that the CSF are committed to securing them.
President Mohamed Morsy left the palace on Tuesday evening, two sources reported to Reuters, after protesters angered by his 22 November decree expanding his powers clashed with security forces outside.
The Interior Minister said that the president left the palace after he concluded all his meetings, implying that his leaving was not because of the protest.
Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Central Security Forces had withdrawn completely from the area surrounding the presidential palace, while numbers of protesters grew. Members of the Republican Guard were stationed inside the palace.
Minor clashes erupted between protesters and security forces after some protesters tried to cross barbed wire set up by security forces earlier in the day. Security personnel fired tear gas canisters, and some protesters were injured in the clashes, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
Al-Masry Al-Youm estimated that there are tens of thousands of protesters in the area. Former presidential candidate Khaled Ali was reported to be leading a march to the area in the evening.
Two marches including hundreds of protesters from the Korba and Abbasseya neighborhoods had arrived in Heliopolis in the evening as part of the march planned to the presidential palace.
Hundreds of protesters gathered near the presidential palace earlier Tuesday as part of the “Final Warning” demonstrations against the 22 November constitutional declaration and the draft constitution, which is scheduled for referendum on 15 December.
Quarrels took place between protesters and the Central Security Forces after the latter prevented the former from proceeding further toward the vicinity of the presidential palace. The protesters accused the security forces of favoring the Muslim Brotherhood as they have during past demonstrations allowed them to gather and show support for President Mohamed Morsy near the palace.
Protesters put banners on the barbed wire, including an image of Morsy in pharaonic attire bearing the phrase, “Down with the pharaoh president,” chanting, “The people want to bring down the regime.”
Military spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Ali denied on Tuesday that the Armed Forces had sent troops to secure the presidential palace, stressing that guarding the palace was not among the Armed Forces’ duties.
Ali added that the Armed Forces are not part of any political conflict and are neutral toward all political forces.
Protesters who gathered on Mirghany and Ibrahim al-Laqqany streets close to the palace earlier Tuesday could not reach the palace due to the barbed wire.
The protesters chanted, “We want bread, freedom and to bring down Constituent Assembly” and, “Down with the rule of the [Muslim Brotherhood] supreme guide.”
One of the officers securing the palace prevented two ambulances from driving by. The officer told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he was given orders not to allow vehicles to drive by or people to gather around the palace.
Meanwhile, the Freedom and Justice Party’s media adviser, Mourad Ali, preemptively laid responsibility for any violence at the presidential palace during protests on Tuesday on the opposition.
“We welcome protests anywhere, so long as they are peaceful without any form of violence or hindering work of state institutions,” he told reporters. “We staged protests last Saturday. Millions took part. No cases of harassment or attacks on anyone or state buildings erupted.”
Ali laid responsibility on Constitution Party head Mohamed ElBaradei, Popular Current founder Hamdeen Sabbahi, former MP Amr Hamzawy and Wafd Party chief Al-Sayed al-Badawy for violence that could take place during the protests. “Like we shouldered responsibility for our protests and succeeded in organizing them, they should bear responsibility for protests they called for, as well.”
Political forces had called earlier for protests Tuesday in front of the presidential palace against the constitutional declaration issued by President Mohamed Morsy on 22 November. Two marches were staged from the Nour and Raba’a al-Adaweya mosques to the presidential palace, while a demonstration is also ongoing in Tahrir Square.
Demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Tuesday before marching. The demonstrations were sparked by the political crisis that resulted after the declaration, which protected the Shura Council and Constituent Assembly from being dissolved and made Morsy’s decisions unchallengeable.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm