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Protesters attack presidential palace in Cairo, one person dies in clashes

By Ben Wedeman, CNN
February 2, 2013 -- Updated 1838 GMT (0238 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One person is killed in clashes outside the presidential palace, a hospital says
  • Protesters hurl Molotov cocktails and rocks; security forces respond with tear gas
  • Egypt has been embroiled in violence since last week
  • Protesters, security forces battle outside presidential palace

Cairo (CNN) -- A fire erupted at the entrance to Egypt's presidential palace Friday night as protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.

One person was fatally shot during clashes, according to an official from Cairo's Heliopolis Hospital, and authorities were seen dragging away demonstrators.

Egyptian television aired live footage of security forces beating a naked man on the ground. The Ministry of Interior said it would investigate the incident.

The nation has been rocked by violence since last week's second anniversary of its revolution. Protesters have fumed over the slow pace of change and recent edicts by President Mohammed Morsy, who imposed a 30-day curfew on areas engulfed by violence.

READ: Egyptian secular, Islamist groups meet to try to end conflict

State TV reported that security forces were clearing the area in front of the palace as rioting continued.

An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister toward riot police during clashes outside the Egyptian presidential palace on Friday, February 1, in Cairo. Egypt has been embroiled in violence since last week, the two-year anniversary of an uprising that led to the ouster of then-President Hosni Mubarak. An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister toward riot police during clashes outside the Egyptian presidential palace on Friday, February 1, in Cairo. Egypt has been embroiled in violence since last week, the two-year anniversary of an uprising that led to the ouster of then-President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt unstable after days of protest
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Photos: Egypt unstable after days of protest Photos: Egypt unstable after days of protest
Security forces push protesters back
Cairo police appear to hit, drag nude man
Police, protesters clash in Cairo

"The continued attacks suggest a real breakdown in central power, we're coming close to that," said Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "None of the political forces have control over the people in the streets."

Amid the political and economic discontent, Morsy and opposition groups vowed to keep their supporters off the streets in an effort to avoid further bloodshed.

Fear and loathing in Egypt: The fallout from Port Said

Earlier this week, anti-government protesters ignored Morsy's curfew in cities along the Suez Canal and clashed with police and military troops, raising more questions about the stability of the Middle East's most populous nation.

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with CNN this week, echoed concerns about what a collapse of the Egyptian state could mean for the broader region.

"I think that would lead to incredible chaos and violence on a scale that would be devastating," she said Tuesday at the State Department. "There has to be some understanding by the new government that the aspirations that the people were expressing during the revolution in Egypt have to be taken seriously."

Friday's protests are the latest in the seesaw struggle between Egypt's first democratically elected president and dissidents who say his leadership is a throwback to past dictatorships, particularly the reign of President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled two years ago in the popular revolt.

Could Egypt fall apart?

Dozens of deaths have resulted, prompting Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, to denounce the violence and call for dialogue among all parties.

She said Morsy's state of emergency declaration should be governed by the rule of law, in line with international standards, and urged him to listen to the demands of demonstrators and take action to deal with problems in the judicial system.

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Journalist Sarah El Sirgany contributed to this report.

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