Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said on Sunday that it is necessary for the state to reclaim its land, following clashes that erupted between the police and residents of Warraq Island in Cairo when police attempted to remove illegal encroachments on state property.
One civilian was killed in the clashes and 19 were injured, while 31 police personnel were also injured.
State-news agency reported Ismail as saying that the state’s efforts to reclaim state lands started in May, and that the state began this campaign “to restore 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.
The interior ministry said in an earlier statement on Sunday that some of the residents of the island gathered and attacked the police with stones and birdshot rounds as they began a campaign to clear encroachments on the island, prompting forces to use tear gas to disperse them.
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.
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.
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.