This afternoon has seen a dramatic turn of events occur on the recently peaceful streets leading to Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
Pro-Mubarak supporters, perhaps hundreds, were seen moving aggressively on the streets toward the anti-Mubarak protestors in the square wielding batons and throwing rocks. This resulted in violent clashes between the two sides. Anti-Mubarak protestors were seen hurling the stones in the other direction as a running battle of attack and counter attack ensued over several hours. This was all being shown in live streaming by Al Jazerra/English.
Initially, it could not be confirmed who exactly were the pro-Mubarak forces but the ID's of some of them were confiscated by the anti-Mubarak demonstrators indicating they were police and security personnel. The latter have not been seen in days ever since the army moved in to take their positions in and around the square.
It seems quite plausible that the pro-Mubarak supporters were in fact police and security people (in civilian clothes) as they would be the ones likely to lose their positions once Mubarak stepped down or was forced to abdicate.
Meanwhile the army was strangely just standing by as the running battles ensued choosing to remain in position on the rooftop of the nearby Cairo Museum.
As the crisis was unfolding it was reported that Mohamed ElBaradei, now clearly an opposition leader, said Mubarak was behind the violent turn of events and the army needed to step in to stop the violence.
As night fell in Cairo, an eerie calm descended upon the streets that earlier were chaotic. It is significant that the center of Tahrir Square remains populated by anti-Mubarak protestors who seem determined to remain until their key demand is met for Mubarak to step down.
Although the army has until today been exceptional in maintaining order and civility it was probably unprepared to quell the violence of today with insufficient numbers on the scene. It would seem the army's forces will need to be beefed up as a reoccurrence of today's violence seems inevitable and the longer the current situation remains unstable with Mubarak holed up in his palace issuing his intent to stay until September.
From here it would appear with Mubarak remaining intransigent, the country at a standstill economically, demonstrations ongoing (and now getting violent) and with a call for another massive demonstration (by anti-Mubarak forces) on Friday, something dramatic must happen to break the current impasse.
The army is the one institution that remains respected by the Egyptian people and probably the only ones capable of peaceably ending the crisis.
Seeing for themselves the current deterioration of civility and breakdown in order as a direct result of Mubarak rigidly holding on to power, the Egyptian generals could convene and decide Mubarak has to step down. It could be in the form of an ultimatum for him to step down so an orderly transition, negotiations and a new constitutional convention toward forming a new government can take place. If he refused they could physically remove him.
It would not be unprecedented and in this hour of crisis would likely be applauded by the Egyptian people. Although it would be a coup and normally condemned it would seem to be a solution acceptable by foreign governments under the current circumstances.
With mass demonstrations planned for Friday such an ultimatum could be publically aired on Thursday, giving Mubarak till Friday to voluntarily step down or be physically removed if he resists.
Who else but the army will be able to do this?