HRW: Egypt fight against Daesh threatens humanitarian crisis

Relatives of the victims of the bomb and gun assault on the North Sinai Rawda mosque sit outside the Suez Canal University hospital in the eastern port city of Ismailia on November 25, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2018
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HRW: Egypt fight against Daesh threatens humanitarian crisis

  • Human Rights Watch said the offensive has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid
  • Daesh group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt

BEIRUT: Egypt’s military operations against an affiliate of the Daesh group in North Sinai is threatening to spark a humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
The offensive launched on February 9 “has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid,” said the New York-based organization.
The campaign “has included imposing severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in almost all of” North Sinai, HRW said in a report.
“Residents say they have experienced sharply diminished supplies of available food, medicine, cooking gas, and other essential commercial goods.”
The authorities conducting the campaign, dubbed “Sinai 2018,” have also banned the sale of gasoline for cars in the area “and cut telecommunication services for several days at a time,” the report said.
Human Rights Watch also said authorities had “cut water and electricity almost entirely in the most eastern areas of North Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed.”
“A counterterrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director.
“The Egyptian army’s actions border on collective punishment,” she added.
Since the launch of the offensive, the military has distributed images of forces providing humanitarian assistance to people living in the area.
According to the military, residents support the campaign and many have come forward with useful information to help the authorities neutralize the militants.
Security forces have stepped up efforts to quell attacks by an Egyptian militant group that later declared allegiance to Daesh since Islamist president Muhammad Mursi was deposed in 2013. Mursi was forced out by the military, following mass protests against him.
The group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt.
More than 100 militant and at least 30 soldiers have been killed in the ongoing operation, according to army figures.


Masked attackers kill five Syria rescuers: White Helmets

Updated 50 min 31 sec ago
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Masked attackers kill five Syria rescuers: White Helmets

  • The White Helmets said armed men stormed the Al-Hader center in a pre-dawn attack and fired on the first responders inside.
  • Four volunteers were killed on the spot and a fifth died later in hospital.

BEIRUT: Five Syrian rescue workers were killed in an attack by masked assailants Saturday on one of their centers in the northern province of Aleppo, the White Helmets said.
The White Helmets said armed men stormed the Al-Hader center in a pre-dawn attack and fired on the first responders inside.
Four volunteers were killed on the spot and a fifth died later in hospital, it wrote on Twitter.
Founded in 2013, the White Helmets are a network of first responders who rescue wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or blasts in rebel-held territory.
The Al-Hader center lies in a part of Aleppo province controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), an extremist organization whose main component was once Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
“At around 2:00 am, an armed group stormed the Al-Hader center, blindfolded the staff members who were on the night shift, and killed five of them,” said Ahmad Al-Hamish, who heads the center.
“Two others were wounded and another two were able to flee. The attackers were masked and escaped after stealing some equipment and generators,” he said.
It was unclear whether the attack was a robbery-gone-wrong or if the center and its crew had been specifically targeted.
More than 200 White Helmets rescuers have been killed in Syria’s seven-year war, usually in bombing raids or shelling on their centers.
While attacks like the one on Saturday are rare, they have happened before.
In August, seven White Helmets members were killed in a similar attack in the town of Sarmin, in neighboring Idlib province.
Most of Idlib is held by HTS, as well as a part of Aleppo and the adjacent province of Hama.
Tensions are on the rise there, with a wave of intra-opposition assassinations and clashes leaving at least 20 rebels dead in 48 hours, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“You cannot separate the Al-Hader incident from the assassinations and other killings that have been happening more and more in recent weeks in areas under HTS control,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The population of Idlib province has swelled to more than two million people as a result of massive transfers of rebels and civilians from onetime opposition zones elsewhere in the country.
The killings come as the White Helmets are facing a “freeze” on funding from the United States, which is still reviewing over $200 million earmarked for stabilization in Syria.