Other Brotherhood supporters outside the palace accused opposition protesters of being Mubarak loyalists or foot soldiers in a coup attempt.
“They want to take over power in a coup. They are conspiring against Morsi and we want him to crack down on them,” said one, Ezzedin Khoudir. “There must be arrests.”
The violence began when the Brotherhood called on its members to head to the presidential palace against what a statement termed as attempts by the opposition to impose its will by force. In response, thousands descended on the area Wednesday, chasing away some 300 opposition protesters who had been staging a peaceful sit-in outside the palace’s main gate since the night before. Clashes later ensued with the two sides using rocks, sticks and firebombs.
State television quoted the Health Ministry as saying Thursday that five people were killed and 644 injured by beatings, gunshot wounds and tear gas inhalation.
A journalist for the independent daily Al-Fagr newspaper was in critical condition Thursday after being shot in the head with a rubber bullet, according to a staff member who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in exchange for releasing the information ahead of a formal announcement. The newspaper said it did not know who fired the rubber bullet.
“We raise Egypt’s flag but they raise the Brotherhood flag. This is the difference,” protester Magdi Farag said as he held the tri-colored national flag stained with blood from his friend’s injury in the clashes the night before.
“We will not leave until he leaves,” Farag said about the president.
Morsi, meanwhile, remains determined to press forward with plans for a Dec. 15 constitutional referendum to pass the new charter. The opposition, for its part, is refusing dialogue unless Morsi rescinds the decrees giving him near unrestricted powers and shelves the controversial draft constitution, which the president’s Islamist allies rushed through last week in a marathon, all-night session shown live on state TV.
“In fact, it is perhaps even worse,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate told a news conference after he accused the president’s supporters of a “vicious and deliberate” attack on peaceful demonstrators outside the palace.
Wednesday’s violence also spread to other cities, with at least two Brotherhood offices set ablaze outside Cairo.
• Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy contributed to this report.