Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula amid an ongoing military operation against Daesh-affiliated militants there, saying the army’s actions in the restive region risk “collective punishment.”
According to the New York-based rights group, 420,000 people in North Sinai Province are in urgent need of food, medicine and other essential items.
“Severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in almost all of North Sinai threatened to trigger a humanitarian crisis in the region,” it warned.
Security forces “cut water and electricity almost entirely in the most eastern areas of North Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed,” HRW reported.
HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said, “A counterterrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence.”
“The Egyptian army’s actions border on collective punishment and reveal the gap between what President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claims to be doing on behalf of the citizenry and the shameful reality,” she added.
Egypt’s military began a new sweeping operation against militants in February after Daesh-affiliated militants launched a bomb attack on a mosque in North Sinai and killed over 300 people, in what marked the deadliest attack in the North African state’s recent history.
Operation Sinai 2018, which involves security forces mobilized from the air force, navy, army and police, aims to tighten control on border districts and “clean up areas where there are terrorist hotbeds,” media reported.
The Sinai Peninsula has been under a state of emergency since October 2014.
Terrorists have been targeting both government forces and civilians with terror attacks, taking advantage of the turmoil in Egypt that erupted after the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup in July 2013.
The Velayat Sinai group, which has pledged allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorists, has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.