CAIRO -- Egypt's police and military stormed a pair of Muslim Brotherhood protest sites here early Wednesday morning, leaving hundreds of protesters dead and many more wounded as violence threatened to spill across the city.

While clashes at one Muslim Brotherhood protest site extended into their 10th hour, Egypt's military-backed government declared a one-month state of emergency. Across the city there were reports of small gun battles, and churches and government buildings being burned or seized. Vigilante and neighborhood watch groups, once a fixture of post-revolutionary Cairo, were formed late in the day.

The exact number killed in the storming of the sites -- the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City and another one in Nahda Square -- was unknown, but the Ministry of Health reported a death toll approaching 300, including 235 civilians and 43 police officers. More than 1,400 people have been injured, according to Reuters.

Mohammed El Baradei, a liberal politician who had joined the military-backed government as vice president, announced later Wednesday he would resign in response to the crackdown. El-Baradei was a leading figure working within the government in recent days to try to prevent the military from taking such action.

Demonstrators have been camped out at the sites for more than a month, protesting the military's decision to remove President Mohammed Morsi from office. In that time, they have constructed sophisticated tents, a pharmacy and a large stage.

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As unrest spread across Egypt Wednesday -- especially in Christian areas of the Upper Nile, where several churches reportedly came under attack from angry Muslim Brotherhood supporters -- Mohammed al-Beltagi, a leader of the Brotherhood movement, appeared on television to urge his followers to rise up against the country's military leadership. He particularly called out Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the armed forces.

"I swear by God that if you stay in your homes, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will embroil this country so that it becomes Syria," al-Beltagi said, according to Reuters. "Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will push this nation to a civil war so that he escapes the gallows."

A Brotherhood-linked media group later reported that al-Beltagi's 17-year-old daughter, Asmaa, was among those killed in the clashes.

Within two hours of the storming at 7 a.m., large crowds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters had gathered along Nasr Street, about a kilometer away from the entrance to Rabaa, where hundreds of police and army officers had gathered. Massive reinforcements on both sides kept arriving all morning.

At a staging area for ambulances, on Nozha Street just off Nasr Street, bodies streamed out of the clashes zone. By 10:30 a.m., ambulances were leaving for a hospital nearly every five minutes.

An ambulance driver told HuffPost they couldn't get closer to the clashes because the tear gas made it impossible for them to work, and they were afraid their cars would be trapped.

"Is this the democracy everyone talked about?" a man pleaded, as he watched an injured protester be placed in an ambulance. "The army shooting people in the streets? Is this what we were promised?"

Residents of the neighborhood, who have grown fatigued by more than a month of protests, gathered at the Addas Aqad intersection to chant slogans for the army -- "The people, the army, one hand" -- and swarmed as injured protesters and policemen were carried away from the sit in.

One block away, Muslim Brotherhood supporters gathered to face off with the police, lighting small fires in the street and chanting, "The army, Sisi, dirty hands."

Periodically, police fired barrages of tear gas and what sounded like machine gun fire down the street toward the Brotherhood supporters, forcing them back toward El Nozha street, and into cover behind cars parked nearby.

Protesters leaving the site held up unfired rifle rounds and said, "This is our Egyptian army." It was unclear whether police were firing real ammunition or rubber bullets.

Demonstrators inside Rabaa were still holding out -- and hiding out -- as the barrage of tear gas and ammunition continued into the late afternoon. There were few signs that the injured could be moved out of field hospitals inside Rabaa, and reporters on the scene said they counted dozens of dead bodies in the makeshift morgues there.

In an alley near the clashes, a skinny 22-year-old resident in shorts and a T-shirt stood holding a white flower, staring mournfully at the scene. He declined to give his name, but said he had recently served in the army and was due for another term.

"I love the Egyptian army," the man said, "but what they are doing, killing protesters, it's against humanity."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said it plans to hold a demonstration in Cairo today, Reuters reported.

"Marches are planned this afternoon from Al-Iman mosque to protest the deaths," the Islamist group said in a statement.

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Khaled el-Khateeb, an Egyptian Health Ministry spokesman, said 421 people were killed in Wednesday's clashes between police and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, The Associated Press reported.

Over 3,500 were also injured.

FMI: Click here.

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CNN's Arwa Damon, who hid from gunfire on air earlier in the day, told Piers Morgan from Egypt, "It does seem as if journalists are being targeted -- at the very least they are being intimidated."

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The New York Times blog reports: according to the photographer who witnessed the event, it appears that the driver’s efforts to evade rock-throwing protesters, by reversing quickly while driving right at the edge of the bridge, caused the jeep to crash through the barrier to the street below.

Read the full story here.

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Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt's ambassador to the U.S., told CNN's Hala Gorani that despite today being the deadliest since 2011, things could have been much worse.

"I feel that if another alternative had been arrived at, such as postponing this for another week or two or month or two, the casualties would have been higher," Tawfik said. "Certainly, this is not something that we're happy with -- any Egyptian loss of life is something that we mourn. Nevertheless, this was the least bad option we had in front of us."

Watch the full interview below.

--Kavitha A. Davidson

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According to Joshua Hersh, Egyptians are wary of any U.S. involvement in the current crisis, highlighted by the "meekness" of the State Department's response to today's events.

"Anywhere you go in Cairo right now, [the U.S.] is being accused of befriending the other side to the detriment of the nation," he told HuffPost Live host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. "It's fine being an American citizen here, but you sure get an earful about your country."

Watch the full segment here.

--Kavitha A. Davidson

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--Joanna Zelman

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An Egyptian security force kicks a supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as they clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

Check out the rest of these incredibly sobering images here. (Warning: Some photos contain graphic content)

--Kavitha A. Davidson

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According to Reuters, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has pledged to tighten security to the stringent levels seen during Hosni Mubarak's rule that largely contributed to his ouster in 2011.

Reuters writes:

Addressing the complaints of many Egyptians who are tired of the insecurity that has blighted the country since Mubarak was toppled in 2011, Ibrahim evoked the days of the deposed autocrat as a model for the future.

"I promise that as soon as conditions stabilize and the Egyptian street stabilizes, as soon as possible, security will be restored to this nation as if it was before January 25, and more," he said.

The 2011 uprising erupted on January 25, deliberately timed by pro-democracy activists to coincide with national police day.

Read the full story here.

--Kavitha A. Davidson

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Footage filmed by researchers for the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch captures the devastation in Rabaa al-Adawiya on Wednesday.

"One man next to us was shot and fell to the ground as we ran across,” says HRW's Heba Morayef. “Doctors inside the hospital were attempting to operate in crowded hallways with very basic equipment.”

Watch the report in the video below.

--Eline Gordts

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The Los Angeles Times' Jeffrey Fleishman writes that before resigning today, former interim VP Mohammed Elbaradei fiercely opposed the army intervening in pro-Morsi sit-ins and recently warned that such action would lead to widespread violence.

Fleishman writes:

ElBaradei had been heavily criticized by hard-liners for seeking a negotiated solution to the crisis. He had been attacked in newspaper columns and on television talk shows, but he continued to press his case until just before 7 a.m. Wednesday, when the police operation began.

“Those who want to crush the Brotherhood accuse me of being soft. I don't believe my concern over the loss of lives makes me a soft man,” ElBaradei said in a recent television interview. “It's easy to get angry and say we'll crush the Islamists, but it will result in massive deaths.”

Read the full story here.

--Kavitha A. Davidson

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AP reports that the healthy ministry has raised the total death toll to 278, including 235 civilian casualties and 43 policemen killed.

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Al Jazeera reports that despite Wednesday's bloodshed, including the reported deaths of 149 protesters, pro-Morsi supporters remain resolute in their stand against the country's current rulers.

One such protester, Abdelhraman Gamal Mohamed, 25, was stopped by police on his way to a sit-in.

"They want today to scare us, but they are stupid - this fire won't scare us, it won't stop us from getting our freedom," Mohamed told Al Jazeera. "Live free or die, that is what we believe - and we will die for this. We will die for our future."

Read the full Al Jazeera report here.

--Ryan Craggs

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From Reuters:

Western allies warned Egypt's military leaders right up to the last minute against using force to crush protest sit-ins by supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, arguing they could ill afford the political and economic damage.

Read the full story here.

-- Eline Gordts

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Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the heavy-handed intervention by Egyptian security forces while calling for the state of emergency to be lifted "as soon as possible," AP reports.

"This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians," Kerry said. "The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering."

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CNN reports that Egypt's healthy ministry has raised the casualty figures from 149 to 211 dead.

Read more here.

--Kavitha A. Davidson

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Reuters reports that Egyptian security forces will prohibit further sit-ins from taking place.

"We will not allow any other sit-in in any square in any place in the country," Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a televised news conference.

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Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi take cover from Egyptian security forces fire during clashes in Rabaah Al-Adawiya in Cairo's Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

--Ryan Craggs

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In her daily press briefing, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that the administration is not yet willing to call Morsi's July 3 ouster a "coup," while also rejecting the characterization of Thursday's violent clashes as "civil war."

Watch the live briefing here.

--Kavitha A. Davidson

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This concise AP interactive shows the key events, main players and an overview of all that's going on now and all that has led up to Wednesday's violence in Egypt. Take a look here:

--Ryan Craggs

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