CAIRO (AP) — An international human rights group has warned Egypt’s new interim leadership against ending sit-ins by loyalists of ousted president Mohammed Morsi by force, saying all measures must be taken to avert a “bloodbath.”

The statement by Human Rights Watch came as Morsi’s followers called for new mass rallies across the country on Friday in defiance of a government order to disband.

Nadim Houry from the New-York-based group says Egyptian authorities need to “avoid another bloodbath” and “ensure the ongoing right of protesters to assemble peacefully.”

On Thursday, the military-backed government offered protection to supporters of Morsi who ended their two sit-ins — widely seen as a first step toward dispersing the vigils on opposite sides of Cairo.

But the protesters responded defiantly: “Over our dead bodies!”

Despite a government warning that it would disperse the vigils, the Brotherhood and its supporters announced plans to organize new mass marches Friday, dubbed “Egypt Against the Coup.”

Organizers of the sit-ins outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in eastern Cairo and a smaller one near Cairo University’s main campus in Giza say the protests are signs of the enduring support for the once-dominant Muslim Brotherhood.

The standoff underscored the ongoing political crisis since the armed forces toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected leader on July 3: thousands in the streets demanding Morsi’s reinstatement, a government unable to exert its authority, and recurrent violence that has killed more than 260 people.

Rights groups, activists and politicians from rival camps, fearful of more bloodshed, tried to ward off any use of force, including a suggestion of putting a human chain around the protest sites.

Many say Morsi’s one-year rule was rampant with political failures and focused on concentrating power in the hands of his Islamist group.