Uh oh: Violence Erupts in Tahrir Square? UPDATE: Video Added

Posted: Feb 02, 2011 9:36 AM
Last night, President Obama praised Egyptians for the relatively peaceful nature of their revolution-in-progress.  That fragile peace may be breaking down at this hour:

Some members of the Egyptian Army were believed to be entering Tahrir Square. Military vehicles were separating pro- and anti-Mubarak demonstrators, and several gasoline bombs had been tossed, CNN's Anderson Cooper said.

The sound of gunfire was heard in Tahrir Square, CNN's Fred Pleitgen said on Twitter. The square has been surrounded by pro-Mubarak demonstrators who have blocked in anti-government demonstrators and others at the site, CNN's Ben Wedeman said.

The good news, for now, is that the Egyptian military seems to be steeping in as peacekeepers.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Ed posts video of the violent skirmishes and play-by-play of the clashes by an on-scene witness --

The Danger Room reports that the military appears to have adopted a non-intervention approach, which almost guarantees an escalation of violence:

What about the Egyptian Army, which won accolades from the U.S. for not suppressing the anti-government demonstrations? It’s taking a hands-off approach, telling demonstrators that since everyone involved is a civilian, soldiers are not going to take sides. That’s according to anti-regime demonstrator Salma Eltarzi, who told Al Jazeera that she sees Mubarak’s game plan at work.

The situation is deteriorating rapidly.  A snapshot of the chaos:

Protesters are throwing rocks at one another, and eyewitnesses report that people they believe are plainclothes police are wielding knives, sticks and “daggers.” The past week of anti-regime protests has been notable for their nonviolence. Now, pro-regime demonstrators are charging the square on horseback and camelback — two protesters even pulled someone off a camel. It’s worth noting that the regime has turned the Internet back on, as Renesys reports, right in time for its supporters to mobilize.

If the implication of last sentence is true -- or even if a preponderance of protesters believe it to be true -- that could spur widespread, lethal violence.  If anti-regime demonstrators believe Mubarak is sanctioning thuggery against them, that could push them over the edge.  Yikes.