CAIRO – Troops pulled women across the pavement by their hair, knocking off their Muslim head scarves, and slapped a middle-aged woman in the face repeatedly Saturday. Young activists were kicked in the head until they lay motionless in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Egypt’s military is using a dramatically heavier hand to crush protests against its rule in nearly 48 hours of continuous fighting in Egypt’s capital that has left nine dead, many of them shot to death, and more than 300 injured.

The overt use of force, caught on TV and activist cameras, is likely a sign that the generals who took power after the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak are confident the Egyptian public is on their side after two rounds of widely acclaimed parliament elections, and that Islamist parties winning the vote will stay out of the fight while pro-democracy protesters become more isolated.

Still, the generals risk turning more Egyptians against them, especially from outrage over the abuse of women. Photos and video posted on the Web showed troops pulling up the shirt of one woman protester in a conservative head scarf, leaving her half naked as they dragged her in the street.

“Do they think this is manly?” Toqa Nosseir, a 19-year-old student, said of the attacks on women.

“No one can approve or accept what is happening here,” said Nosseir, who joined the protest despite her parents’ objections because she couldn’t tolerate the scenes. “The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.”

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the woman’s image on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, “This is the army that is protecting us!”

“Are you not ashamed?” leading reform figure and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in a Tweet addressed to the ruling military council.

Also, among those shot to death in the crackdown was an eminent cleric from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s most respected religious institution. At the funeral Saturday of Sheik Emad Effat, 52, thousands chanted “Retribution, retribution,” and some marched from the cemetery to Tahrir to join the clashes.

The battles saw military police on rooftops pelting protesters below with stones and firebombs and launching truncheon-swinging assaults to drive the crowds back.

Flames leaped from the windows of the state geographical society, a treasure trove of antique scientific books that was hit by firebombs in the melee. Some youths tried to rescue books from the fire.

The clashes began early Friday with a military assault on a three-week-old sit-in outside the Cabinet building by protesters demanding that the military hand over power to civilians.