Egypt denies Sinai battle is choking off food and medicine supplies

The Egyptian army launched an operation in February to crush militants who have waged an insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers, police and residents. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Egypt denies Sinai battle is choking off food and medicine supplies

  • Human Rights Watch warned of a wider humanitarian crisis if North Sinai continued to be cut off from the Egyptian mainland, saying the army’s actions “border on collective punishment.”
  • Air strikes and raids have killed scores of suspected militants, the military says, as it imposes curfews and tight movement restrictions around towns in North Sinai.

CAIRO: An Egyptian military campaign to defeat Daesh militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula is choking essential food and medical supplies to thousands of residents in the desert region, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. The army denied the charge.
The New York-based organization warned of a wider humanitarian crisis if North Sinai continued to be cut off from the Egyptian mainland, saying the army’s actions “border on collective punishment.”
The army launched an operation in February to crush militants who have waged an insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers, police and residents over many years.
Air strikes and raids have killed scores of suspected militants since then, the military says, as it imposes curfews and tight movement restrictions around towns in North Sinai. The army has said it is winning the battle.
A military spokesman denied there were shortages, saying it was providing food and medical support throughout the areas it operated in, The HRW report had used “undocumented sources” in its report, he said.
“Thousands of food parcels have been and are being provided to people in North Sinai,” Col. Tamer Al-Rifai, the spokesman, added.
International news outlets are prevented from traveling to North Sinai to report.
Residents said food supplies, medicine and fuel were insufficient and that movement restrictions meant most people were unable to leave the region, HRW reported.
“A counter-terrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence,” HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
The report said authorities had banned the sale of petrol and cut communication lines, water and electricity in some areas of North Sinai including near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Residents told Reuters last month they often waited for hours for bread handouts which were not guaranteed to arrive.
Defeating the militants and restoring security after years of unrest that followed Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising has been a promise of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was re-elected in March in a landslide victory against no real opposition.
El-Sisi’s critics say he has presided over Egypt’s worst crackdown on dissent. Supporters say such measures are needed to bring stability and improve the country’s hard-hit economy.
In Sinai, analysts and foreign diplomats say heavy-handed military tactics including air strikes and demolitions of populated areas have failed to defeat the insurgency.


Three Ukrainian soldiers killed in clashes with rebels

Updated 11 min 43 sec ago
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Three Ukrainian soldiers killed in clashes with rebels

KIEV: Three Ukrainian servicemen were killed in fighting with pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country as fighting intensified in the region, Kiev said on Sunday.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said one soldier was killed in fighting late on Saturday. The country’s security service (SBU) later on Sunday confirmed two other servicemen were killed in shelling in the Luhansk region.
“In addition, four of our servicemen were injured in varying degrees of severity,” Dmytro Gutsulyak, spokesman for the Ukrainian defense ministry, said.
The situation in eastern Ukraine has seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks.
Two Ukrainian soldiers and four civilians — including a 13-year-old boy — were killed in fighting last week.
The chief monitor of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) special mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug temporarily left the conflict zone last week due to a “serious deterioration of the security situation,” the organization said.
More than 10,000 people have been killed since the Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border to fan the flames of the conflict.
Moscow has denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and its explicit political support for the rebels.