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.


EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

Updated 19 October 2018
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EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

BRUSSELS: European Union and Arab leaders will meet in Egypt in late February for their first summit as part of efforts to forge a new European-African alliance and fight migrant smuggling, officials said Thursday.
European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria last month as they vowed to intensify talks with Egypt and other North African countries to curb illegal migration.
“The European Council welcomes the holding of the forthcoming first summit between the 28 EU Member States and the League of Arab States, hosted by Egypt on 24-25 February 2019,” the council of EU leaders said after a summit in Brussels.
The Cairo-based Arab League includes North African countries Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as those in the Middle East and Gulf.
EU officials insisted the summit was about more than just migration, but part of a broader push to build closer ties with Africa outlined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September.
“It is now much more than about migration and fighting traffickers,” an EU official told reporters.
Juncker urged the EU to strike a “new alliance” with Africa that would create millions of jobs and include a free trade deal.
The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, hopes the strategy will both showcase its international influence and help stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
The EU also wants to boost development in sub-Saharan Africa to ease the poverty that often drives migration.
Brussels has previously struck cooperation deals with both Turkey and Libya, whose coast guard officers are trained by the Europeans to stop migrant sea crossings — despite concerns about conditions in Libyan detention centers.
The deals with the two gateway countries have helped to cut migration to Europe sharply since a 2015 peak, but the bloc wants to expand work with all north African countries.
The leaders called for “strengthening cooperation with countries of origin and transit, particularly in North Africa,” according to the summit’s published conclusions.
“Work with third countries on investigating, apprehending and prosecuting smugglers and traffickers should be intensified,” it said.
EU officials say Egypt has set a high bar in fighting traffickers and smugglers, which could be emulated by other North African countries.
The EU is increasingly focused on bolstering its external borders amid longstanding divisions over redistributing asylum-seekers who make it to Italian and other European shores.
But it is still confronted with the refusal of Hungary and other former communist eastern countries to admit migrants, particularly from Muslim countries.
And Italy’s populist government has this year turned away migrant rescue ships in a bid to force fellow EU countries to share responsibility for them.
The United Nations refugee and migration agencies, the UNHCR and IOM, had this week urged EU leaders to take steps to ensure responsiblities are shared.
They said the debate was so “dangerously toxic” in some countries that it was harder to find common solutions.
Even though fewer people were arriving in Europe, the two agencies said, the rate of people dying in the Mediterranean was increasing. More than 1,700 lives have been lost since January.