Father and son among seven civilians killed in Sinai military crackdown

Father and son among seven civilians killed in Sinai military crackdown
3 min read
27 June, 2019
Egypt's military targeted residential areas of al-Arish with heavy shelling following Wednesday's suicide attack, killing 7 civilians as families gathered to watch the national football team.
Egyptian policemen guard a street in the restive town of al-Arish, July 2018 [Getty]
The Egyptian army killed seven civilians, including a 12-year-old boy, on Wednesday night as it shelled residential areas in northern Sinai in response to a deadly suicide attack on police officers earlier that day, accoring to tribal sources and eyewitnesses.

Speaking to The New Arab’s Arabic-language service, the sources said the army heavily bombarded civilian homes and farming areas on the outskirts of al-Arish, as families gathered to watch the Egyptian football team play Congo in the African Cup of Nations.

A medical source from the local hospital said that the victims had been identified as Nur Mohammed Suleiman, aged 12, his father Mohammed Suleiman Salama, 35, his uncle Hamad Suleiman Salama, 30, as well as three brothers Radi Salem Rasheed, 33, Fathi Salem Rashid, 35, and Radwan Salem Rasheed, 18.

The source added that the seventh casualty is yet to be identified due to their severe injuries.

Other sources put the death toll at nine, however, this has not been confirmed.

The shelling comes after the second day in a row of attacks on the Egyptian authorities by the IS-affiliated group Wilayat Sinai, who have been leading an insurgency in the desert peninsula since 2011.

An eyewitness added that the militant group ambushed a number of Egyptian security forces in the al-Masaid neighbourhood on the western outskirts of al-Arish, as well as attacking al-Masaid's church and surrounding area. 

Three soldiers were wounded, according to medical sources at the al-Arish military hospital.

The source explained that this marked the first time the militants had launched two attacks in 24 hours since the Egyptian military waged a large-scale offensive to eradicate the group in February 2018.

Earlier on Wednesday, a suicide attacker targeted an "assembly centre" for police, according to the interior ministry, leaving seven police officers dead.

Four assailants died during ensuing "clashes", one when he detonated an explosives belt, the ministry added.

The northern Sinai, which was already one of Egypt's poorest and most isolated regions, has been on lockdown since the insurgency began, sparking fears of grave human rights violations and a humanitarian crisis as residents are placed under strict curfew, with workplaces and universities shut down and supplies of essential food, water, fuel and medical supplies to its 420,000 residents curtailed.

Hundreds of militants and civilians have been killed along with dozens of soldiers, according to official figures which cannot be verified as Sinai is largely cut off to journalists.

Human Rights Watch in May accused both Egyptian security forces and IS militants of committing "war crimes" in their confrontation in the restive region.

"While Egyptian military and police forces were responsible for the majority of abuses documented in the report, extremist militants have also committed horrific crimes," the New York-based group said in a 134-page report.

"Some of the abuses carried out by government forces and the militants, which this report documents, are war crimes, and their widespread and systematic nature could amount to crimes against humanity."

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HRW compiled the report over two years interviewing more than 50 residents of the Sinai Peninsula, in northeast Egypt, where independent media coverage is effectively banned and a state of emergency has been in force since 2013.

In late 2017, North Sinai was the scene of the deadliest attack in Egypt's modern history when militants killed more than 300 worshippers at a mosque, without any group claiming responsibility.

Islamist militants have kidnapped and tortured scores of residents and also attacked security forces.

Security forces have likewise targeted Sinai residents arresting thousands and forcibly "disappearing" dozens, according to the HRW report.

Children as young as 12 have been detained in routine sweeps eventually being jailed in secret prisons.

Meanwhile, Egypt is currently on high alert as it hosts the Africa Cup of Nations, although none of the games are taking place in Sinai.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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