CAIRO: Tear gas canisters were reportedly fired indiscriminately into the homes of residents of Qalet Al-Kabsh in Sayyeda Zeinab district yesterday after a reported melee between squatters and security forces, eyewitnesses have told The Daily Star Egypt.
The Ministry of Interior’s website said that residents had thrown stones at a government official visiting the site of a fire, which gutted 300 squatter homes on Tuesday and that its forces were responding to the violence.
The Ministry said 10 members of the security forces and 17 government workers were injured.
At least five stone-throwers were arrested.
There were reports that three children and an older man died from asphyxiation, but The Daily Star Egypt could not independently verify the claim.
Police on the scene were unavailable for comment.
“The Sheikh [responsible for the hospital] doesn’t want to let journalists in to see the kids, said Amal El-Sayed, who has a six-year-old in Abu Rish el Gamay hospital undergoing treatment. The Daily Star Egypt met two children and one older man who had visited the hospital earlier and were released.
They did not appear injured but were clearly fatigued.
Thursday’s disturbance in Sayyeda Zeinab followed two tumultuous days of protests by residents who lost their homes in a fire which destroyed wooden squatter units on earlier in the week.
“[The government] want us out of here, said Samah El-Sharqawy, a squatter who lives in the Sayyeda Zeinab.
His was a sentiment echoed by many who thought the government simply wanted locals to leave.
“They don’t want to give us our rights, said Fatma Abdullah, another squatter, who thought the canisters were fire to intimidate them from asking for alternative housing.
She says the squatter community had been calling for housing for several years.
“The situation was like a scene from the battles between Israel and Palestine, Abullah said.