At least four people are dead and more are suspected missing after the army attacked a group of protesters who had blocked roads in the latest development of a longstanding land dispute in Giza.
The clashes started on Sunday morning when protesters from the island of Qorsaya in the suburbs of Giza blocked the Bahr Al-Azam road, disrupting traffic. They burned tyres and the army responded by firing rubber bullets at them. “One of them got a bullet in his side and he died… this is what made the situation escalate,” said Dalia Mousa from the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), which has been following the clashes since early Sunday morning.
Mohamed Mostafa, a resident of the island of Qorsaya said, “the army had taken the lands, but the people got a court order giving them back the land [in 2010], but it was never carried out.” Mostafa said that two days ago, the locals decided to go back to the disputed lands but the army violently dispersed them, which is why they took to the streets.
Ahmed Mohamed Aly, army spokesperson, said the lands belong to the armed forces and the locals trespassed at a time when there was a lack of security in the country. He said on Friday around 60 locals, mostly women, entered the land and refused to leave following negotiations. He added that only after the negotiations failed, did the army remove them and regain control.
He also said that the army was fired upon, which is why the army opened fire and arrested 25 people.
The death toll, according to the centre, had reached four by Sunday afternoon, the latest being one of the injured who died at Al-Qasr Al-Einy hospital on Sunday. At least eight were injured in the clashes, Mousa said and 13 of the people of the island were arrested and taken to C28, the military prosecution headquarters. She also said that five people who tried to escape the clashes jumped into the Nile and as of Sunday afternoon are missing.
Mousa said that the army has destroyed people’s houses and crops, boats and trees had been set on fire. “Some of the people are also held in the village and they’re being tortured and electrified,” Mousa said. The army was also pursuing journalists and photographers, Mousa said.
“The people have houses there and they live on farming, these lands,” said Moussa, adding that they’ve lived on this island for more than a generation. “The army wants to take it and says that these are their lands,” she added.
Qorsaya Island is home to about 2,000 residents. Mostafa said he didn’t understand why the army was on the island among people who’ve lived on the island for years. He said he hadbeen a resident of the village for over 28 years.
The ECESR said that the army used the land to build a military barracks, fenced with barbed wire, and was attempting to re-install its forces in the lands.
Clashes continued on Sunday afternoon after protesters blocked the road again and three Central Security Forces trucks were sent to the scene.