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Egypt seeks to prevent protests by displaced in Sinai

Egypt seeks to prevent spread of return protests by North Sinai displaced
3 min read
23 August, 2023
Hundreds of displaced Egyptians turned out on Monday evening, declaring their desire to return to their villages in North Sinai.
Egyptian military forces are seeking to prevent the spread of protests by displaced people in North Sinai [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images-file photo]

Egyptian military forces and intelligence are seeking to prevent the spread of protests by displaced people in North Sinai, a governorate in the country's east.

Demonstrations by protesters demanding a return to their villages have occurred more than once over the past two weeks, including on Monday, when hundreds turned out, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

Returnees were displaced 10 years ago due to the threat posed by the Islamic State group, which has since abated.

Tribal sources said hundreds of displaced people from villages south of the town of Sheikh Zuweid and west of the city of Rafah, both located near Palestine's Gaza Strip, demonstrated in Al-Muqataa, which is one of the abandoned villages.

Protesters blocked roads with their cars and raised banners, the sources added.

They said people are being denied entry to their homes in their villages of origin but authorities are allowing some engineers affiliated with investment companies to access the areas for agricultural projects.

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Tribal sources said the army did not attack the protesters, whose demonstration lasted more than six hours.

Locals have decided to repeat the protest near daily in various areas of the Sinai.

Mass meetings of the Sawarka and Armilat tribes were called for last Friday to agree on a plan for returning to the deserted villages.

Tribal leaders gave a one-week deadline for residents to be allowed to return without conditions.

Sources said army Major General Mohammed Rabie hurried to contact Sawarka and Armilat leaders and to ask them to calm the protesting citizens.

He promised to escalate their problem to higher authorities to allow for citizens to return after their villages are cleared of the remnants of the "war on terrorism".

The tribal leaders responded by giving Rabie a week and saying if no decision is made to allow residents to return without conditions, they will go back to their villages.

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Events in Al-Muqataa village in recent days are separate from a new movement led by hundreds of residents from villages in the Rafah area.

An upcoming meeting is planned to unify efforts in sit-ins and protests on the outskirts of the villages.

One of the participants in the protests, Ahmed Salman Al-Zaraii, said demonstrators had received warnings ahead of their rallies in previous weeks.

Al-Zaraii said there had been "movements" at the "highest level" on the night of Monday into Tuesday between tribal leaders and Egyptian military and army officials.

Returnees to North Sinai in the past weeks have been met with a changing response.

The army has fluctuated between allowing and denying people entry to their villages, including in the coastal areas.