Egypt Independent

HRW report on a humanitarian crisis in North Sinai ‘baseless’: Army spokesperson



The spokesperson for Egypt’s army denounced a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Monday detailing the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in North Sinai and the suffering of residents in the governorate due to a siege being imposed by Egyptian Armed Forces.

Army spokesperson Tamer El-Rafaai told Egypt Independent on Tuesday that the Egyptian Armed Forces are providing all the necessary goods and food requirements for the residents of North Sinai and added that the army is coordinating with all state entities to assure that the needs of residents in the governorate are being fulfilled.

“The Egyptian Armed Forces are securing the arrival of trucks that are loaded with fresh food to the cities of North Sinai and forces are distributing food to the residents of areas where there are ongoing army operations against terrorists,” Refaai explained.

He asserted that the report is not truthful and was not based on reliable information and uses undocumented accounts and details of operations in Sinai.

The report, A Humanitarian Crisis Looms, highlighted that the military operation ‘Comprehensive Sinai 2018’ being carried out against the IS-affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ has left 420,000 residents in four cities of North Sinai in dire need of humanitarian aid.

HRW expressed its concern that the military operation may create a humanitarian crisis in North Sinai and that firm restrictions have been imposed on the movement of people and goods in all parts of North Sinai.

The report quoted local residents as saying that there has been a sharp decline in the supply of food, medicine, cooking gas and other basic commodities and claimed that authorities have imposed a ban on the sale or use of gasoline for vehicles in the area and that communications services have been interrupted for several days.

The report blamed the Egyptian government for almost completely cutting water and electricity from most of the eastern parts of North Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid and stressed that the continuing restrictions on movement threatens a wider humanitarian crisis in the economically marginalized region.

HRW called on the Egyptian government to provide all citizens with adequate food and immediately allow relief organizations, such as the Egyptian Red Crescent, to provide resources to meet the urgent needs of the region’s population.

Operation Comprehensive Sinai was launched by the Egyptian government on February 9 to eliminate terrorist groups and networks in the Sinai peninsula.

According to official army figures, more than 100 militants and 30 soldiers have been killed during the operation.

Independent journalists and researchers have been mostly banned from reporting from North Sinai for years so independent confirmation of information and casualties from both the militants and security forces are near impossible to verify.

The Human Rights Watch website has been blocked in Egypt since last year, along with at least tens of other websites deemed critical of the government.

Following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, attacks against security services in North Sinai massively spiked.

Insurgents in the region pledged allegiance to IS in late 2014 and have carried out deadly attacks including against churches as well as a mosque in Sinai in which over 300 worshippers were killed.