Soldiers advanced from barriers around the square shortly before dawn, scuffling with protesters, activists said. A Reuters witness heard gunfire and saw protesters, brandishing big sticks, running from the scene of the latest flare-up.
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"It's cat-and-mouse. The army raid and retreat," a protester in the square, Mostafa Fahmy, said by telephone.
Hundreds of protesters were in Tahrir in the early morning, some huddled round fires to keep warm in the chill air after troops burned down tents that had been erected by activists camped there since a protest against army rule on November 18.
The latest flare-up in violence has exposed divisions among Egyptians about the role of the army, which took over after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Tahrir Square (Photo: AFP)
Ten protesters were killed in clashes over the weekend. Among those shot to death in the crackdown Saturday was Sheik Emad Effat, an imminent cleric from Al-Azhar, the most respected religious institution in Egypt.
Activists have stayed out on the streets for weeks, angered by the army's seeming reluctance to give up power. But other Egyptians back the military as a force for badly needed stability during a difficult transition to democracy.
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