A farmer pauses during work on his farm in Geziret Al-Warraq, an impoverished island that can only be reached by ferry, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, March 10, 2015 (Photo: AP)
The Egyptian cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) said on Monday that last week’s demolition of buildings on Cairo’s Warraq Island aimed to reclaim illegally seized state land, and was not preparation for an investment project on the island as some reports suggested, state news agency MENA reported.
"The removal of illegal encroachments is not part of a plan for investment projects," the IDSC said in its statement, adding that are some who "take advantage of such situations in attempts to rally angry citizens against the state."
"Meetings between security officials and citizens of the island will be held in the next few days to clarify the situation and eliminate any misconceptions," the IDSC stated.
The IDSC says that the state is merely looking to remove encroachments on agricultural land on Warraq Island, as the law stipulates that the construction of buildings is not allowed on more than 2 percent of the island’s land.
The statement added that illegal construction has led to an increase in population on the island, with its inhabitants reaching 90,000 citizens, resulting in a drop in agricultural production.
The security force tasked with removing illegal buildings "had clear orders not to demolish any inhabited buildings or farmland," the IDSC said.
Last week, one civilian was killed, 19 were injured, and 31 police personnel were wounded in clashes between police and citizens when the state demolished a number of buildings on Warraq Island, which authorities said were built on illegally seized public land.
The IDSC says that a misunderstanding and rumours caused the clash between citizens and police.
"Some citizens used the microphones of mosques to spread a rumour that the police were evacuating all citizens," which caused anger and provoked the standoff, the IDSC said.
Some residents said their homes, mostly two-storey structures, were demolished by the authorities last week even though they maintained they posses documentation proving legal status.
The IDSC statement said that the decision to demolish illegal buildings on the island is not new, and that it dates back to 2007, with 700 unexecuted building demolition orders.
The government is currently conducting a nationwide campaign to reclaim illegally seized public land.