Army Central Command forces are being deployed to break up the Abbasseya sit-in, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr channel reported around noon Wednesday, citing a military source.
The official death toll rose to nine Wednesday and 49 were reported injured in clashes between armed men and protesters near the Defense Ministry in Abbasseya Square, state-run MENA reported the Health Ministry as saying.
The injuries ranged from bruises to wounds from birdshot, according to Khaled al-Khateeb, the ministry's head of the Central Department for Emergency and Critical Care.
After early morning fighting followed by a few hours of tenuous calm, clashes started again around 9 am. Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that armed men attacked with Molotov cocktails and bird shot.
Dozens of activists began marching late Wednesday morning from Fath Mosque in Ramses Square, heading toward Abbasseya Square. The marchers said they would attempt to end the clashes, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
Participants in the march chanted, “Down with the military rule,” and threatened to execute military Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Anan.
Eyewitnesses reported the initial attack in the early hours of the day by unknown men using Molotov cocktails and bird shot, coming from the direction of the nearby Nour Mosque, toward the Abbasseya Square sit-in, which has been there since Friday night.
Al-Masry Al-Youm also reported that these unidentified men fired tear gas at the protesters in Abbasseya. It also reported that there was gunfire at the scene. Protesters hurled stones at the sit-in attackers.
While the field hospital at the sit-in treated urgent cases of injured protesters, more critical cases were transferred to the nearby Ain Shams University Hospital, also known as Demerdash.
The streets leading to the sit-in have been blocked by military police since clashes erupted earlier on Saturday night.
In protest of the attacks, presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh halted his campaign on Wednesday. In a statement, he called on the People’s Assembly to “wake up” the interior minister to fulfill his duties and protect the protesters.
At Ain Shams University, all on-campus faculties suspended lectures until Thursday, as a Faculty of Medicine student was killed in the clashes.
University Vice President Hassan Eissa said each faculty dean had been authorized to make his or her own decision on whether to suspend lectures or postpone exams in case students are at risk. Lectures went on as normal at the university’s off-campus faculties.
The university announced all its hospitals would receive injured students, and denied reports that they had been closed.
Activists voiced concerns about security forces refraining from protecting the sit-in, suggesting their implication in the attack.
The sit-in began on Friday night when a group of supporters of former presidential candidate and Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail headed from Tahrir Square to Abbasseya, which houses the Defense Ministry, to protest the disqualification of the conservative preacher from the race.
On Saturday night, the sit-in was attacked by a group of unidentified armed men who threw Molotov cocktails and fired bird shot at the protesters. The Health Ministry confirmed the death of one person in the attack, while over 100 people were injured.
After the initial clashes, more protesters joined the Abu Ismail supporters, saying that the sit-in had become unified against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, from which the activists demand a swift handover of power.