News reports say several dozen people have been killed in Egypt Friday where security forces are cracking down on protesters holding a "Day of Rage" in defiance of an interim government-imposed state of emergency.
Fierce fighting between demonstrators and military forces in Cairo's Ramses Square has left at least 32 people dead. Military helicopters hovered overhead. Witnesses told Al Jazerra television that there was firing from the helicopters on demonstrators in the square.
Accounts from government officials and witnesses report more than 40 people have been killed across Egypt, including some police officers.
There were no indications that the unrest would subside, in spite of a government curfew that takes affect at 1700 UTC .
Egyptian state media warned people to stay off the streets in Cairo as an operation to confront what it calls "terrorist elements" unfolds.
Demonstrations have broken out nationwide and hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have turned out in the streets. Witnesses reported hearing crackles of gunfire.
In a Skype interview from Cairo, VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott described how protesters in Cairo reacted to shots.
"All of a sudden there will be a noise and the entire crowd in unison will duck down, which is an indication that there are some kinds of shots being fired. It is not clear exactly what kind. Not tear gas or we would have seen the plumes of smoke."
Television footage showed clashes in the northern city of Tanta. News reports said security forces there fired tear gas and birdshot at supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Tens of thousands of Morsi supporters poured onto streets across Egypt after midday prayers. VOA's Arrott says women are among the demonstrators.
Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement had called for a "Day of Rage" on Friday, two days after Egyptian police destroyed two large pro-Morsi camps in Cairo.
The government says 638 people were killed, but the Muslim Brotherhood says the death toll is in the thousands.
On Friday, Egyptian state television reported the army and police would deal firmly with those who violated the state of emergency. Earlier, the government said its forces would use live ammunition if any government facilities were attacked.
Earlier, security forces had blocked major roads and increased the number of tanks and armored personnel vehicles in the city in anticipation of protests on Friday.
Shortly before morning prayers ended on Friday, cars careened through nearly-empty streets in an apparent bid to get home before protests and marches began.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called for European Union foreign ministers to meet next week to discuss Egypt's crisis. In a Friday statement, they also called for an immediate end to the unrest.
Egyptian authorities accuse the Brotherhood and Morsi supporters of terrorism and sabotage. The Brotherhood says the country is returning to military tyranny.
U.S. President Barack Obama has canceled next month's scheduled military exercises with Egypt. He says traditional cooperation cannot continue when civilians are being killed in the streets.