Tahrir Square - AP - 22112011
Protesters gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo Monday night, as unrest over the interim leadership of the country spills into the streets. Photo by AP
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CAIRO - Egypt's army-appointed government handed in its resignation on Monday, trying to stem a spiraling crisis as thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square clashed for the third straight day with security forces in violence that has killed at least 24 people and posed the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of the military.

The crowds in Tahrir, which had grown to well over 10,000 after nightfall, broke out into cheers with the news of the cabinet's move, chanting "God is great." But there was no sign the concession would break their determination to protest until the military steps down completely and hands over power to a civilian government.

Beating drums, the protesters quickly resumed their chants of "the people want the ouster of the field marshal," a reference to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the council of generals that has ruled the country since the Feb. 11 fall of authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which Tantawi heads, did not immediately announce whether it would accept the mass resignation.

Many Egyptians had seen the government, headed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, as a mere facade for them military and either unable or unwilling to press ahead with democratic reform or take action to stem increasing turmoil and economic crisis around the country.

The anger, however, has ultimately been focused on the generals themselves, who many activists accuse of acting as abusively as Mubarak's regime and of intending to maintain their grip on power.

If Monday's resignations are carried out, a crucial question will be who will replace the Cabinet. Some in the square demand the military immediately hand over all its authority to a national unity government made up of multiple factions.

Violence has steadily escalated the clashes began Saturday, when police tried to clear several hundred protesters in the square. Repeated attempts to clear the protesters from Tahrir have failed, and a death toll that quadrupled overnight from Sunday has only brought out more and angrier protesters.

An Egyptian morgue official said the toll had climbed to 24 dead since the violence began Saturday - a jump from the toll of five dead around nightfall Sunday, reflecting the ferocity of fighting through the night.