Egyptian authorities postponed plans to disperse two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of the country's ousted President Mohamed Morsi to "avoid bloodshed," security officials said Monday, while Morsi's detention was extended by an additional 15 days.
The postponemen came as Morsi supporters staged fresh rallies demanding his return to power, marching down a main boulevard at the heart of Cairo, chanting anti-military slogans and waving the toppled president's picture.
At least temporarily, the delay is likely to defuse tensions that had spiked overnight, with the country bracing for a new bout of violence if the police moved against protesters.
Tens of thousands have occupied two encampments in Cairo's streets since even before Morsi's July 3 overthrow. At least 130 of his supporters have been killed in two major clasheson the edges of the larger encampment.
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that the decision not to disperse the protesters on Monday came after there were some leaks to the media about the possible intervention of security forces and as larger groups started to attend those pro- Morsi sit-ins.
"A security source said that with the number of protesters swelling, armed forces decided to not move in the direction of these camps," Rageh said.
"The dispersal did not happen arguably because of the international pressure. Now what security forces are doing is essentially measuring their every step."
The security forces had planned to form cordons around the Cairo protest sites as early as dawn Monday, according to officials who spoke earlier to The Associated Press.
The government's decision to clear the sit-ins came after the failure of nearly two weeks of efforts by the international community to end the standoff and find a peaceful resolution. Egypt's interim prime minister warned just ahead of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr that ended Sunday that the government's decision to clear the sit-ins was "irreversible."
Morsi was deposed after millions of Egyptians took to the streets on June 30, demanding he step down over what they saw as his failure to both govern inclusively and manage the economy. Many accused him of acting only on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. Huge protests continued for four days.
The Brotherhood has responded that the ouster of Morsi, the winner of Egypt's first freely contested presidential elections, was a blow to democracy.
The two sides have not been able to reach a compromise since.
A judge ordered Morsi to be detained for 15 more days on Monday, as investigations continue into charges that he conspired with Hamas to break out of the Wadi al-Natroun prison with 33 other members of his Muslim Brotherhood group.
This is the second time his detention has been renewed. The first was on July 26.
Other Brotherhood figures, including the group's top spiritual guide Mohammed Badie, are on the run or taking refuge amid tens of thousands of supporters at the larger of the two sit-ins in Cairo's eastern Nasr City district, where a road intersection facing Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque has been turned to a heavily fortified tent city.
The sit-in, along with a second one in Cairo's twin city of Giza, are used as sites for street rallies. The government says the protest camps are a "threat to national security."
The protests by the Brotherhood have prevented an air of normalcy from returning to Cairo's streets after nearly a month of instability. Residents in buildings surrounding the two protest camps have long complained of harassment, restrictions on their movement and fears of getting caught in a crossfire if clashes take place.
"The country is at a standstill," said Abdel-Rahman al-Bagi, part of a group of anti-Morsi protesters that has remained camped out at Cairo's Tahrir Square since his overthrow. "Nothing is functioning because of the Muslim Brotherhood. They should leave the (protest) camps and the country will move forward. These people are brainwashed."
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press