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LIVE UPDATES: Violent clashes explode between pro and anti Morsi forces

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19:06 President Mohamed Morsi is reported to have left the presidential palace as clashes turn violent between supporters and opponents of the president. Supporters chant, “Freedom, justice, Morsi’s men stand behind him.”

19:00 Molotov cocktail bombs fly around the presidential palace, fireworks lit up the sky and gunshots were heard as clashes flurred up minutes before 7pm at the presidential palace in Cairo on Wednesday between supporters of President Mohamed Morsi and his opponents, who had been holding a protest sit-in at the site since Tuesday night.

According to media reports, there was no security presence at the palace when the clashes began around 4pm.

Ahram Online reporter at the scene, Osman El-Sharnoubi, confirmed that clashes have continued between Morsi supporters and anti-Morsi protesters in several side streets surrounding the presidential palace in Heliopolis.

Shortly before 6pm, Central Security Forces appeared on the scene for the first time since the clashes began and have acted to stand as a barrier between the warring sides.

Eyewitnesses told Ahram Online that several thousand pro-Morsi supporters arrived at the presidential palace minutes before 4pm where they attacked dozens of activists who had been holding a peaceful sit-in since Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, a leading Muslim Brotherhood member told Ahram Online that the group planned to hold a pro-Moris demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace. Asked whether such a step might not result in clashes between

Brotherhood members and the opposition protesters sitting in at the site, he replied, "let what may happen, happen."

Activist Aida El-Kashef told Ahram Online that demonstrators staging the sit-in had created a buffer zone to avoid clashes with approaching rival Morsi loyalists. The peace was not maintained for long, however, as a throng made up of hundreds of Morsi supporters approached and attacked the tents of anti-Morsi activists.

El-Sharnoubi reports that pro-Morsi protesters hauled the remains of the tents they had destroyed away from the site of the palace, shouting, "We're cleansing the palace."

Activist Nawara Negm reported that she had been attacked together with activist Rasha Azab by supporters of the president.

In response, Mohamed ElBaradei condemned the violence on Twitter, saying, "Vicious attack vs peaceful protesters in front of presidential palace without police protection. Regime leading Egypt into violence & bloodshed."

Meanwhile, the numbers of pro-Morsi supporters have been increasing outside the palace. A small truck accompanied the pro-Morsi demonstrators, mounted on which were loud-speakers calling on people to vote for the new constitution and carrying a banner reading "Yes to the constitution."

"The people support the president's decisions" and "Long live president Morsi; the martyrs' blood was not shed in vain," the pro-Morsi loyalists chanted.

A few opposition protesters could still be seen standing nearby, although clashes appear to have subsided. The atmosphere, however, remains tense with limited scuffles breaking out intermittently.

Ambulances have arrived at the scene in anticipation of possible injuries.

Pro-Morsi supporters could be seen wiping out anti-Morsi graffiti from the palace's walls.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched on the presidential palace to denounce Morsi's constitutional declaration and what they felt was an "authoritarian" draft constitution.

The Brotherhood has released a joint statement with nine other Islamist groups accusing anti-Morsi protesters of carrying out acts of vandalism.

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