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Egypt army turned Sinai schools into military bases: probe

Sinai children go without education as Egypt army turns schools into military bases: probe
2 min read
The Egyptian army turned more than 30 schools in the Sinai Peninsula into military bases, an investigation has found.
Over the past decade, Islamist insurgents have launched a number of attacks from the Sinai Peninsula [source: Getty]

The Egyptian army has transformed nearly 40 schools in the restless Sinai Peninsula into bases in a campaign against Islamist militants in the region, a groundbreaking investigation has found. 

A months-long probe by the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR) used satellite images, videos, and photos to confirm that Egyptian authorities targeted certain schools in the region due to their location and height. 

A total of 37 schools were taken over by the army and 59 destroyed during ten years of fighting in the Sinai between Egyptian authorities and militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, the Guardian reported. 

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"Schools are used as bases because they are often built two or three storeys high, whereas most of the buildings in the area are one story. It gives the military a place to position snipers," said Ahmed Salem, SFHR’s co-founder and executive director. 

On Thursday, SFHR shared several videos on social media of destroyed school buildings, including one school in the village of Mahdia south of Rafah and al-Shati School in Sheikh Zuweid. 

They said that in at least three cases, the schools were attacked or destroyed by gunmen, who bombed the buildings to stop the army from commandeering them. This meant local children were left "without education" because they couldn't be accommodated in other schools. 

SFHR has sent letters to the Egyptian minister of education, chair of the education committee in the Egyptian parliament, governor of north Sinai and undersecretary of the ministry of education in north Sinai, but heard nothing back, according to the Guardian. 

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Over the past decade, the Sinai - home to roughly half-a-million people - has been at the epicentre of insurgent attacks on security forces and civilian targets. 

The Egyptian government has conducted several counterinsurgency operations in the peninsula but has been routinely accused of violating the rights of local communities, including extrajudicial killings. 

For example, last year, it was revealed that local children were recruited to fight for pro-government militias in North Sinai. Images online showed young children carrying guns as part of military operations in the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.