CAIRO - Reuters/AFP - Thousands of supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi marched through districts of Cairo and other cities on Friday to demand his reinstatement, ignoring warnings that security forces would open fire if protests turned violent.
After a relative lull following the arrests of many Muslim Brotherhood leaders, the Friday rallies were the movement's biggest show of defiance since clashes two weeks ago in which hundreds of protesters were killed.
A Health Ministry official in Port Said, on the Suez Canal, said one protester had been killed and 21 injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi. The only reported clash between protesters and security forces was outside a mosque in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, according to state television.
The army-backed government has arrested most of the leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood since he was toppled on July 3, suffocating protests and all but silencing the movement that ruled Egypt for a year.
Friday's demonstrators appeared to have chosen to hold numerous scattered protests and to avoid Cairo's bigger squares, where police and tanks were deployed in force, or the scenes of earlier protests such as the pro-Morsi street camps where security forces shot dead more than 600 people on August 14.
Just after Friday prayers around 500 protesters set off from central Cairo's Sahib Rumi mosque chanting, "Wake up, don't be afraid, the army must leave!", "The Interior Ministry are thugs!" and "Egypt is Islamic, not secular!"
By mid-afternoon, thousands were marching in several other Cairo districts and suburbs.
Soldiers were joined by helmeted police in black uniforms and bulletproof vests, armed with tear gas guns and semi-automatic rifles, in manning checkpoints near the protests. They blocked access to one of the bridges over the Nile.
Marches of a similar size were held in Alexandria on the coast, several cities in the Nile Delta, the three Suez Canal cities of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said, Assiut and others.
Earlier in the day an Egyptian-born, Qatar-based Muslim cleric exhorted Egyptians to return to the streets to challenge the military-backed government and restore Morsi to power.
The comments, made during Friday sermons broadcast by Qatari state television, could further worsen ties between Doha and Cairo that have already been damaged by Morsi's ouster. "You Egyptians, go out, all of you, men, mothers, daughters even children. This is a religious duty on all Egyptians!" Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi said.
The crackdown on Islamists has soured relations between Egypt and Qatar, a wealthy Gulf Arab state and US ally that had given Cairo $7 billion during Morsi's administration.
Meanwhile, Egyptian naval police shot and wounded two Palestinian fishermen and detained five off the Gaza Strip on Friday, medics said, an incident that hinted at increased tension between Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers and Cairo.
Fishermen from Gaza have often brought in catch from Egyptian territory to sidestep restrictions imposed by Israel's naval blockade of the enclave. But Egypt has grown less tolerant of this practice since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was toppled by the military almost two months ago.
The group of seven Palestinian fishermen were sailing west of the southern Gaza border town of Rafah towards Egyptian waters when the forces opened fire at them, Gaza hospital officials said. Egyptian authorities had no immediate comment.
The wounded pair avoided arrest and were only lightly hurt, hospital officials in Gaza said.
Relations between Hamas and Egypt have deteriorated markedly since Morsi was removed by the Egyptian military on July 3 after weeks of mass unrest against his Islamist rule. Hamas is an offshoot of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood
Egyptian officials have accused Hamas of aiding Islamist militants in Egypt's widely lawless Sinai peninsula bordering Gaza. Hamas denies this.
Citing security concerns, Israel, Hamas's arch-adversary, maintains a naval blockade of the enclave and imposes a limit of six nautical miles on the distance that fishermen can sail out to sea.
Israeli forces have regularly shot at Gaza boats seen as trying to breach the blockade, but there was no previous record of the Egyptians opening fire.
Gaza fishermen say that the limited fishing zone imposed by Israel is not big enough to meet the demands in the enclave and have often brought fish back from Egypt, either by boat or through smuggling tunnels.
Since Morsi's ousting, Egyptian authorities have warned Gaza fishermen against entering Egyptian territorial waters. It could not be confirmed whether the fishermen shot at on Friday were attempting to cross into Egyptian waters.