Group: Egyptian army intensifies home demolitions in Sinai

Egyptian army intensifies home demolitions in Sinai. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Group: Egyptian army intensifies home demolitions in Sinai

CAIRO: Egypt’s military has intensified home demolitions in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula as part of its campaign against a local affiliate of Daesh, an international rights group said Tuesday.
The military launched a massive security operation in early February in restive northern Sinai, the epicenter of an extremist insurgency spearheaded by the local Daesh affiliate. The campaign also includes parts of the Nile Delta region and the Western Desert, along the porous border with Libya.
Human Rights Watch said in a report that Egypt’s military vastly expanded widespread destruction of homes, commercial buildings and farms in Northern Sinai province since Feb. 9.
“The new destruction, including hundreds of hectares of farmland and at least 3,000 homes and commercial buildings, together with 600 buildings destroyed in January, is the largest since the army officially began evictions in 2014,” HRW said.
“Turning people’s homes into rubble is part of the same self-defeating security plan that has restricted food and movement to inflict pain on Sinai residents,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the watchdog’s Mideast director.
HRW said the destruction has extended well beyond two government-designated security buffer zones in Sinai cities of al-Arish and Rafah.
Egypt has built the buffer zone along Gaza’s border in an effort to prevent militants from using a vast underground tunnel network that was created to evade a decade-old Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the territory. It also bulldozed homes and olive groves around the el-Arish airport where Daesh militants attempted to hit the country’s defense and interior ministers in December.
Egypt has been battling Islamic militants for years in Sinai, but the insurgency gained strength after the 2013 overthrow of an Islamist president.


Assad Regime responsible for crimes against humanity in Ghouta: UN

Updated 2 min 39 sec ago
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Assad Regime responsible for crimes against humanity in Ghouta: UN

GENEVA: Forces loyal to Syria’s government committed what amounted to crimes against humanity, including deliberately starving civilians, during the siege of Eastern Ghouta, UN investigators said Wednesday.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
“Following the end of the longest running siege in modern history... the UN Commission of Inquiry (for human rights in Syria) has condemned this method of warfare in Syria as barbaric,” the UN investigators said in a statement.
The COI, tasked by the UN Human Rights Council in March to urgently investigate recent events in Eastern Ghouta, released a 23-page report filled with horrific details of civilian suffering.
“It is completely abhorrent that besieged civilians were indiscriminately attacked, and systematically denied food and medicine,” commission head Paulo Pinheiro said in the statement.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave between February and April this year, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
It described thousands of desperate people holed up for months in squalid basements with dwindling food rations and few if any sanitation facilities, as bombs and missiles rained down.

The report concluded that “certain acts perpetrated by pro-Government forces during the siege laid to Eastern Ghouta, including the deliberate starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare, amount to the crime against humanity of inhumane acts causing serious mental and physical suffering.”
The investigators slammed the widespread use of sieges throughout Syria’s seven-year conflict, which has killed more than 350,000 people.
“Hundreds of thousands of Syrian women, men and children countrywide have suffered for too long the perverse and long-lasting effects of this medieval form of warfare,” the report said.
The UN’s Syria commission, set up in 2011 shortly after the civil war began, has repeatedly accused the warring parties of crimes.
In Wednesday’s report, the commission also faulted armed opposition groups like Jaysh Al-Islam, Ahrar Al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham for committing “war crimes” by launching “indiscriminate attacks” on Damascus, and killing and maiming hundreds of civilians.
“Through the entire duration of the siege, armed groups also regularly arbitrarily arrested and tortured civilians in Douma, including members of religious minority groups, repeatedly committing the war crimes of cruel treatment and torture, and outrages upon personal dignity,” the report said.
The investigators, who have never been granted access to Syria, said they based their findings for their latest report on some 140 interviews conducted in person in the region and from Geneva.
They also said they analyzed photographs, video recordings, satellite imagery, and medical records, as well as reports from government and non-government sources.
The report noted that by the time government forces declared Eastern Ghouta recaptured on April 14, around 140,000 people had been displaced from their homes.
Tens of thousands of them are still being unlawfully interned by government forces in managed sites throughout the Damascus region, the report said.
Following local “evacuation agreements,” up to 50,000 civilians from Eastern Ghouta were displaced to Idlib and Aleppo governorates, it said.