Morsi met with military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, according to the president’s Facebook page, without giving details. Associated Press calls to presidential spokesmen were not answered.
In a sign of Morsi’s growing isolation, five Cabinet ministers said they have resigned, the state news agency said. The five are the ministers of communications, legal affairs, environment, tourism and water utilities, MENA reported. The foreign minister also submitted his resignation, government officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
The governor of the strategic province of Ismailia on the Suez Canal, Hassan el-Rifaai, also quit.
The swiftness of the military’s new statement suggested it was prompted by the stunning turnout by the opposition on Sunday — and the eruptions of violence that point to how the confrontation could spiral into chaos if it continues.
Sunday’s protests on the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration were the largest seen in the country in the 2½ years of turmoil since Egyptians first rose up against Mubarak in January 2011. Millions packed Tahrir Square, the streets outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace and main squares in cities around the country.
Violence broke out in several parts of the country, often when marchers came under gunfire, apparently from Islamists. In Cairo, anti-Morsi youth attacked the main headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood with stones and fire bombs, while Brotherhood supporters barricaded inside opened fired on them. The clash ended early Monday when the protesters broke into the luxury villa and ransacked it, setting fires.
Nationwide, at least 16 people were killed Sunday and more than 780 injured, Health Ministry spokesman Yehya Moussa told state television.
The crowds returned Monday across the country — in slightly smaller numbers, but in a more joyous mood after the military’s announcement gave them hope of a quick victory. The group organizing the protests, Tamarod, Arabic for ‘‘Rebel,’’ issued an ultimatum of its own, giving Morsi until Tuesday afternoon to step down or it would escalate the rallies.
‘‘Come out, el-Sissi. The people want to topple the regime,’’ protesters in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla el-Kubra chanted, drumming out a rhythm with a stick on the carcass of a sheep. ‘‘Sheep’’ is the slur many in the opposition use against Brotherhood members, depicting them as mindless followers — to the fury of the Brothers, many of whom are professionals from doctors to university professors.
The broad boulevards packed with anti-Morsi protesters outside the presidential palace transformed into a party.
‘‘In every street in my country the sound of freedom is calling,’’ blared a song that originally emerged during the Arab Spring. Bands on a stage played other revolutionary songs.
‘‘God willing we will be victorious over the president and his failing regime,’’ said Mohammed el-Tawansi, sitting on the pavement with his wife singing along.
‘‘He divided us, now the people and the army are together. They will not be able to do anything. They can’t fight the people and the army,’’ he said, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Down the street, protester Amr el-Ayat raised a banner reading ‘‘cautious optimism.’’
‘‘The military statement was good, because we have no other way now,’’ he said. ‘‘But I worry people will deify el-Sissi. The military is to protect, not to rule.’’
Some were perfectly happy to have the military take over. In Tahrir, Omar Moawad el-Sayed, a math teacher with the beard of a Muslim conservative, said he wished el-Sissi had outright announced military rule.
‘‘The military is the most impartial institution now,’’ he said.
Some hoped that the military’s road map would be a framework drawn up by Tamarod. Under it, after Morsi steps down, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court would become an interim president and a technocrat government would be formed. An expert panel would write a new constitution to replace the one largely drafted by Islamists, and a new presidential election would be held in six months.
For Islamists, however, the idea of Morsi stepping down was an inconceivable infringement on the repeated elections they won since Mubarak’s fall, giving them not only a longtime Muslim Brotherhood leader as president but majorities in parliament.
Morsi and Brotherhood officials say they are defending democratic legitimacy and some have depicted the protests as led by Mubarak loyalists trying to return to power. But many of his Islamist allies have also depicted it as a fight against Islam.Continued...