Updated at 3:56 p.m. ET
CAIRO Tens of thousands of Egyptian protesters pushed past barbed wire fences installed by the army and marched on the presidential palace Friday, calling for President Mohammed Morsi to "leave" a day after they say he offered no concessions to opposition demands.
Climbing over tanks of the Republican Guard, protesters streamed toward the palace as night fell Friday, crossing a no-go zone set up around the compound's perimeter.
The area witnessed deadly clashes on Wednesday, when supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group drove out crowds camped outside the palace. The clashes left at least six dead and hundreds injured, deepening the schism between the two sides.
Egypt is plunging deeper into crisis as protesters mainly liberals press Morsi to call off a referendum on a draft constitution agreed by his allies.
But the head of Egypt's election committee, Ismail Hamdi, announced that early voting on the referendum for Egyptians abroad would be postponed, signaling an attempt by Morsi's government to back down and give room for negotiations. The opposition is demanding the cancelation of the whole referendum set for a nationwide vote on Dec. 15.
On hearing of the postponement, some protesters expressed optimism.
"This looks like the beginning of a retraction," said 56-year-old doctor Mohsen Ibrahim. "This means Morsi may postpone the referendum. It looks like the pressure is working out."
But he warned that "if Morsi doesn't see the numbers of people protesting, then he will be repeating the same mistake of (Hosni) Mubarak."
Rival protests also took place in cities around the country, including in the cities of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast and Luxor in the south. CBS News correspondent Holly Williams says Egyptian television reported fresh clashes Friday between supporters and opponents of Morsi in front of a mosque in Alexandria, but there were no reports of injuries or serious violence.
It was not immediately clear if the early voting postponement was a concession or how that would affect the overall referendum timeline.
But Legal Affairs Minister Mohammed Mahsoub said the administration was weighing several proposals. He said those included calling off the referendum and returning the draft to the constituent assembly for changes or disbanding the whole constituent assembly and forming a new one, either by direct vote or upon an agreement among the political forces.
"We have a big chance tomorrow," he said referring to what he said a meeting between political forces with Morsi. "There are no deadlines or referendums outside the country. Tomorrow or day after, we might reach a good agreement," he told the network.
Egypt's Vice President Mahmoud Mekki also told the pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera that he had contacted leading democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei to join the president in dialogue. ElBaradei is leading the newly formed National Salvation Front, an umbrella group of liberals and youth groups that opposed Morsi's decrees.
He added that "until now the referendum is due Dec. 15" until agreement could be reached.
After Morsi gave a fiery televised speech Thursday night denouncing his opponents and refusing to call off the referendum, even as he appealed for dialogue, the two camps in the country's divide appeared at a deadlock. The opposition rejected talks, saying he must first cancel the referendum and meet other demands.
With Egypt's crisis now in its third week, anger was mounting in the streets.
Each side is depicting the conflict as an all-out fight for Egypt's future and identity. The opposition accuses Morsi and his Islamist allies of turning increasingly dictatorial to force their agenda on the country, monopolize power and turn Egypt to a religious state. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, and other Islamists say the opposition is trying to use the streets to overturn their victories in elections over the past year and stifle popular demands to implement Islamic shariah law.
The tone was one of a battle cry as thousands of Islamists held funeral prayers Friday at Al-Azhar Mosque the country's premier Islamic institution for Morsi supporters killed in Wednesday's clashes. Seeking to rally their side, a series of speakers to the crowd portrayed the opposition as tools of the regime of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak or as decadent and un-Islamic and vowed to defend a constitution they say brings Islamic law to Egypt.
"Egypt is Islamic, it will not be secular, it will not be liberal," the crowd chanted in a funeral procession filling streets around the mosque. During the funeral, thousands chanted, "With blood and soul, we redeem Islam," pumping their fists in the air. Mourners yelled that opposition leaders were "murderers."
One hardline cleric speaking to the crowd denounced anti-Morsi protesters as "traitors." Another declared that they will not allow Egypt to become "a den of hash smokers."
"We march on this path in sacrifice for the nation and our martyrs," a leading Brotherhood figure, Mohammed el-Beltagy, told the crowd. "We will keep going even if we all become martyrs. We will avenge them or die like them.
"Bread! Freedom! Islamic Law!" the crowd chanted, twisting the revolutionary slogan of "Bread! Freedom! Social Justice!" used by leftists and secular activists in the 2011 uprising against Mubarak.
At presidential palace in an upscale neighborhood, many protesters were furious over the president's speech the night before in which he accused "hired thugs" of attacking protesters outside the palace Wednesday, sparking the clashes. Most witnesses say the clashes began with Morsi supporters attacked a tent camp set up by anti-Morsi protesters.
A series of video clips surfaced the days following the bloody Wednesday, showing badly bruised faces of female activists, a man putting his hand over the mouth of prominent female activist Shahanda Mekalad to try to silence her as she chanted "we are the Egyptian people," and other anti-Morsi protesters stripped naked and beaten up by the Morsi supporters. One protester was pictured with a bloodstained shirt and a bruised face.
Wednesday's battles have only fed into mistrust between Islamists in power and liberal opposition.