Death & defiance on Tahrir: Govt regrets & rejects

Addressing journalists on Thursday, Egypt’s Military Council rejected protesters' demands to quit power immediately. Meanwhile, thousands of Egyptians who are not convinced by the military’s statements continue to occupy Tahrir Square.

Despite the ongoing unrest, it was confirmed that Monday’s elections would go ahead as scheduled and presidential elections would take place by June 2012.

The Egyptian military says any individual failing to cast their vote next week will be fined $83 (500 Egyptian pounds), RT’s correspondent Paula Slier tweets.

But some protesters told RT they were against Monday’s elections because they say they  cannot be held safely or fairly “when Egypt is not secure."

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has rejected charges of firing live ammunition at the protesters, but said that all violations of human rights would be addressed and those responsible held accountable.

SCAF once again apologized for civilian deaths at the hands of security forces and vowed to release everyone detained in the course of the week-long unrest. Meanwhile, three American students arrested in Cairo have been released, Paula reported. 

SCAF also posted an apology on its official Facebook page.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces presents its regrets and deep apologies for the deaths of martyrs from among Egypt's loyal sons during the recent events in Tahrir Square. The council also offers its condolences to the families of the martyrs across Egypt," the apology reads.

Skepticism on Tahrir Square

But many on Tarhir Square are not convicted by the military’s statements, Paula Slier reports from the scene.

More people than ever chose to remain in the square overnight, raising expectations that the violence will continue.

A large crowd has entered Tahrir Square, chanting and waving flags.

Although Tahrir Square was reported to be quiet on Thursday morning for the first time since fresh unrest began on Saturday, ambulance sirens could be heard, meaning people were still being injured in ongoing clashes.  

Security personnel have erected wire barriers around the Interior Ministry in Cairo in an attempt to keep protesters back.

On Wednesday, Police have reportedly fired live ammunition and tear gas mixed with nerve agent at the protesters, who show no sign of backing down.

Three people were reportedly killed in Cairo street battles on Wednesday as clashes between protesters and police near the historic Tahrir Square flared with renewed intensity. Police used military-grade tear gas to disperse the crowd and fired rubber bullets at protesters.

Egyptian riot police stand guard as tens of thousands of protesters pack Cairo′s landmark Tahrir Square. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)
Egyptian riot police stand guard as tens of thousands of protesters pack Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

Some reports suggested that live ammunition was also being used. Human Rights Watch says at least 22 people were shot with live bullets, citing morgue officials in Cairo.

Meanwhile, early on Thursday, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a statement apologizing for the loss of life in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces presents its regrets and deep apologies for the deaths of martyrs from among Egypt's loyal sons during the recent events in Tahrir Square. The council also offers its condolences to the families of the martyrs across Egypt," the apology on SCAF’s official Facebook page reads.

The Egyptian Health Ministry has admitted that riot police fired live rounds in Tahrir, Paula Slier reports.

Security forces were reportedly using a type of tear gas which is subject to an international ban, RT’s correspondent said. There are also reports that at least one doctor was killed when a gas canister hit a makeshift clinic in the square.

Mohammed el-Baradei, who is being seen as Egypt’s president-in-waiting, said on his official Twitter page that tear gas containing nerve agent had been used against the Tahrir protesters.

The death toll in the new uprising has reached 38, with the Egyptian Health Ministry saying that some 3,250 more had been injured.

Meanwhile, clashes spread across the country, with violence breaking out in the major cities of Alexandria and Assiut.

Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at tanks patrolling the city of Ismailia to the east of Cairo early on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Despite a promise by the head of the ruling military council to hold presidential elections by July 2012, Egyptians are demanding that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi step down immediately in favor of an interim civilian administration.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood has been severely criticized for not participating in the latest protests, with many saying that the party is far more intent on winning seats than in actually coming to Tahrir Square to support the voice of the people.

The Muslim Brotherhood is expected to win most votes in the upcoming elections.