Egypt 'threatens' rights group over Sinai camp for Gaza refugees report: Amnesty

Egypt 'threatens' rights group over Sinai camp for Gaza refugees report: Amnesty
Rights groups have condemned the harassment by Egyptian authorities of Sinai rights groups reporting about an alleged camp for Gaza refugees.
2 min read
26 February, 2024
There has been a buzz or military and construction activity in the northern Sinai [Getty]

Egypt is harassing activists reporting on a huge construction area in the northern Sinai allegedly earmarked for refugees from Gaza, rights groups said on Monday.

Ahmed Salem, director of the Egyptian-focused Sinai Foundation for Human Rights has been subject to a smear campaign by the Cairo government, Amnesty International and other rights groups have claimed, after reporting on activity at a walled-off exclusion zone close to Rafah.

Pro-government personalities and entities have targeted UK-based Salem and his rights group, threatening to bring him back to Egypt if he did not halt his reporting on the construction zone, Amnesty reported.

One pro-government Sinai clan leader also issued Salem a chilling threat, saying he "is not far from reach even abroad".

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He has also been accused of being "linked to terrorist groups and the Israeli Mossad among other allegations presented without evidence", the rights groups said, who on Monday condemned the government-led harassment campaign against the activist.

"The Egyptian authorities should immediately end the threats against the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights and its director Ahmed Salem," said Seth Binder, Advocacy Director, Middle East Democracy Center, in a statement.

"The Egyptian authorities should ensure the safety of his family in Egypt, and end their smear campaigns and the relentless, years-long crackdown on human rights groups and independent organizations."

It follows reports and photographs released by the rights group of the Egyptian military clearing a huge area in northern Sinai in preparation for an expected exodus of Palestinians from Gaza if, or when, Israel attacks the border city of Rafah.

Since the report, Egypt's military has stopped and checked the phones of construction workers and locals in a bid to "intimidate" potential whistleblowers and prevent further information about the walled-off zone from leaking.

Cairo claims a logistics hub to help deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza will be built there, although aid workers have disputed the government narrative.

Israel has launched a brutal assault on neighbouring Gaza, killing almost 30,000 people in less than five months.

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Almost all of Gaza's 2.2 million population, around half children, have been displaced, with around half fleeing to the border city of Rafah.

Aid groups fear a massacre there if Israel assaults the city with further concerns the civilian population will be pushed out of Gaza and into Egypt.

Far-right Israeli ministers have called for the expulsion of Gaza's population to make way for Israel settlements.