Govt, Sinai Bedouin call ‘unwritten truce’

Relative calm prevailed on Wednesday in the village of Wadi Amr, a predominately Bedouin village in the central Sinai Peninsula that had recently witnessed violent clashes between security forces and Bedouin tribesmen.

“There’s an unwritten and undeclared truce now,” according to a security source.

Armed clashes erupted in recent weeks as Bedouins accused security forces of holding Bedouin women hostage in order to coerce Bedouin fugitives wanted by authorities to turn themselves in. Government officials in turn blamed tribesmen for recent attacks on security personnel in the peninsula and for attempting to destroy pipelines carrying natural gas to Israel, Jordan and Syria.

Heads of North Sinai’s El-Tarabin tribe say they would repeat their demands to the Interior Ministry at a press conference scheduled for Thursday, especially those pertaining to the release of Bedouin detainees.

The tribe’s list of seven demands–initially issued in 2007–also includes: the replacement of Interior Ministry security forces with those associated with Egypt’s Executive Authority; allowing Bedouins to own land; the development of Bedouin villages; providing Bedouin youth with jobs in Sinai factories; overturning absentee verdicts against Bedouin fugitives; and bringing police accused of killing Bedouins to trial.

The conference comes in the wake of a Tuesday meeting that brought Interior Minister Habib el-Adli and Egyptian MPs together with Bedouin tribal leaders. At the meeting, attendees discussed the current unrest in the Sinai, along with ways the government could improve its provision of services to Sinai residents.

Bedouin fugitive Salam Abdul Lafi, who escaped from prison in April, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he was ready to hand himself over to authorities on the condition that the Interior Ministry put its officers on trial on charges of killing 135 Bedouin tribesmen. According to Abdul Lafi, the Bedouin remain deeply frustrated over their treatment at the hands of the ministry, and were particularly upset over the lack of results from Tuesday’s meeting.

The tribal headsmen who attended the meeting, he asserted, “do not represent the Bedouin; they are government employees appointed by the Interior Ministry.”

Thousands of Bedouin from central and northern Sinai formed a procession of cars and trucks on Tuesday evening to protest recent statements made by North Sinai Governor Murad Mawafi. Demonstrators also criticized Tuesday’s meeting between government and Bedouin officials, which they claimed did nothing to resolve their grievances.

Regarding the reported attempt to blow up a pipeline carrying natural gas to Jordan and Syria on Monday, Bedouin fugitive Musa el-Dalah denied that the Bedouin had “played any role whatsoever” in the incident. He went on to criticize the Interior Ministry and the Bedouin officials who participated in Tuesday’s meeting.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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