Egypt's top Islamic cleric said on Monday that Islam "forbids" possessing arms during peaceful demonstrations, amid a wave of violence in the country that has left hundreds dead since last week.
Egypt's grand Mufti Shawki Allam has condemned "violence and terrorismin all its forms" and deplored the "destruction" and violations committed against religious buildings, in reference to a flurry of torching dozens of churches in several parts of the country in recent days.
Allam's speech came after 25 army conscripts were killed on Monday by militants in Sinai.
Tensions have been simmering in Egypt after more than 600 were killed when security forces forcibly broke up two protest camps set up by loyalists of toppled Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi last week.
Violence flared in Cairo and elsewhere over the past four days, driving the death toll up to 800.
"If a ship is sinking, nobody will survive. Egypt is our ship that we should protect," said Allam.
The Grand Mufti, one of Egypt's highest religious authorities, urged security apparatuses to vigorously enforce the law and hold violators to account.
Allam also warned against inflammatory rhetoric. "A good word could stop the bloodshed and draw opponents closer, and a wicked word might lead to a loss of lives and deepen the rift."
The spiraling violence has drawn a chorus of condemnation from Western states, with the EU holding an emergency meeting on Monday to pressure Egypt's interim government to an end one of Egypt’s worst bloodbaths in modern history.