One citizen was killed and 19 injured on Sunday in clashes between security forces and residents of Al-Warraq Island in Greater Cairo, according to health ministry figures reported by state-run MENA agency.
Thirty-one police personnel were also injured in the events according to an interior ministry statement, which described their actions on the island in Giza governorate as part of a campaign to remove illegal structures and encroachments on state property on the banks of the Nile.
The interior ministry said some of the residents gathered and attacked the police with stones and birdshot rounds, prompting forces to use tear gas to disperse them.
“Clashes with those gathered resulted in the injury of eight officers, 11 police personnel, and 12 conscripts with wounds resulting from birdshot rounds,” the statement said, adding that the police were able to control the situation.
The health ministry said the injuries of the 19 civilians involved include cases of asphyxiation and birdshot wounds. They are all in a stable condition.
Police arrested 10 people, who are currently being questioned for attacking the security forces, MENA quoted a second statement by the interior ministry as saying.
Reports of clashes emerged earlier on Sunday after both military and police forces cordoned off the bridges leading to the island on both sides.
According to media reports, some residents believe the campaign to demolish illegal buildings on the banks of the Nile is part of a plan to clear the whole island.
In a statement issued on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said that it was necessary for the state to reclaim its land, and that the campaign aimed at “restoring the people’s rights.”
Ismail also said that over 700 judicial decrees have been issued ordering illegal properties on Greater Cairo’s Warraq Island be removed, and that property owners can still legalise their illegally-build properties. He also said that no agricultural land will be evacuated or destroyed.
Giza Governor Mohamed El-Dali affirmed in statements to MENA news agency that the security campaign had targeted illegal constructions and violations on the island’s Nile banks.
“Although the campaign did not target any agricultural lands or inhabited buildings, residents began an assault on security forces, and so the governorate has decided to postpone its campaign”, the official announced.
Similar clashes between security forces and residents of the island took place last year when Egyptian authorities evacuated buildings on the island to construct the Rod Al-Farag axis road, either compensating residents by transferring them to different housing units or with financial compensation.
A nationwide campaign on Nile-side encroachments was launched in 2014.
Earlier this year the irrigation and water resources ministry announced that a total of 26,322 violations along the river’s banks had been removed.
The Egyptian parliament is set to vote on a draft law that would re-classify building encroachments on the Nile as a felony, and would mandate prison sentences for offenders.