Egypt’s ruling generals said on Saturday they were ready to use force to end protests in Tahrir Square after troops cracked down on demonstrators overnight and sparked violence that medical sources said killed two people.

Soldiers and police had used tasers and batons to try to drive out protesters from the square, the epicenter of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak on February 11. Gunshots echoed across the square in the overnight operation.

But hundreds defied the army move and stayed. Thousands more joined them on Saturday, demanding power be handed to civilians and calling for the resignation of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling council.

“Tahrir Square will be emptied of protesters with firmness and force to ensure life goes back to normal,” the council’s Major General Adel Emarah told a news conference.

The army has become a target for a hard core of protesters who say it is colluding with remnants of Mubarak’s network and thwarting calls for a deeper purge of former officials.

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