Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters are expected to march onto the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Friday, in what could become the largest - and some fear the most violent - protests thus far.
The demonstrators’ hopes for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak were dashed on Thursday as Mubarak, in a 17-minute address on television, said he was determined to stay in power until September, when his current term ends.
Mubarak said he had transferred some of his powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman and that he would oversee an "exit" from the current crisis, and "realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens ... without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society".
Before he finished his anticlimactic speech, protesters camped in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt’s revolution, shouted "donkey, leave!"
Rabab Al Mahdi, a professor at the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that the level of anger and frustration at the square was "unprecedented".
"This is putting us into a messy situation that can turn bloody at any moment," she said, adding that the fact that Mubarak "for more than 10 minutes, was talking about himself - very narcissistic, again, giving the message that he's still in control, and this, in and by itself, offended people."
Egyptian state television did not broadcast the scenes of anger after Mubarak's speech.
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that halfway through Mubarak's speech, when the president spoke of his years in public service, people began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air in a dramatic Arab show of contempt.
"You could also see tears in some of the people's eyes ... a lot of screams of anger, people just breaking down in tears, people just breaking down in pain," our correspondent said.
Some people began to immediately mobilise for fresh protests on Friday in response to the speech, she said.
Protesters had previously planned "Friday of martyrs" to memorialise the 300 or more who have been killed during pro-democracy protests, which now have entered a third week.
Thousands of protesters have moved overnight nearer to the presidential palace in the upscale neighbourhood of Heliopolis in central Cairo.
"This marks a new front in our struggle against this illegitimate regime," wrote one protesters on the microblogging site Twitter. "Now that Mubarak has refused to quit, gracefully, he'll pay the price."
In addition to occupying Tahrir Square, pro-democracy protests have already blocked access to the parliament building near the square.
Thousands of protesters were also surrounding the radio and television building in Cairo, which they see as a mouthpiece for Mubarak's regime.
Workers on strike
Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.
Outraged by Mubarak’s defiance, many more workers vowed to join the planned protests on Friday. Pro-democracy demonstrators were undeterred by Vice-President Suleiman's call on Thursday to return to their jobs and homes.
The people's anger was not restricted to Cairo. In Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, crowds began roaring and shouting and headed toward the military base of the northern command.
Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from that city, said pro-democracy protesters were "more offended than ever" at hearing that Mubarak's intention to remain in power until September.
"They really do not understand how President Mubarak cannot comprehend the strong sentiments which they have been expressing over the past two weeks," he said.
The US and EU said the announcement to transfer some powers to the vice-president was grossly insufficient and falls short of genuine reforms demanded by the people.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure, said Egypt "will explode" as a result of Mubarak's defiance and called on the Egyptian army to intervene "to save the country."
Let’s cut to the chase
2 days ago