“Our lives here are very hard. No transport, no phone coverage, going outside or into the village needs coordination with the military, and no cars are allowed into the village. Getting food is like searching for drugs. This is not the first time civilians die because of airstrikes and gunshots. This is unfair. All we want is to live a decent life.”
- A local civilian from Abu al-Araj village in southern al-Sheikh Zuwayed, in his testimony on an airstrike that killed 3 women and a child and injured 11 others most of whom were women and children.
Since 2011, life in North Sinai has been extremely hard, with clashes between the Egyptian military and police and Islamist militants. The intensity of clashes increased after president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown and the militants joined ISIS in 2014. The Sinai Peninsula has a population of around half a million who suffer from historical mar- ginalization from the central government. The suffering increased after the armed conflict started, where hundreds of local citizens were killed, thousands were incarcerated, and hundreds disappeared in the past seven years. Tens of thousands of citizens were also forcibly displaced or evacuated their homes due to armed clashes.
This report, which covers the period of 2019 and 2020, reveals the dark reality of human rights in North Sinai where human rights organizations are not allowed and journalism is significantly restricted. The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights recorded during the period covered by the report the death of 112 civilians, 25 of whom were children and 22 were women, and the injury of 134 others, 36 of whom were children, at the hands of the conflicting parties. Those victims represented a portion of the total number of casualties we were able to record. The foundation conducted interviews with 212 eye- witnesses, relatives of victims, and local civilians.
The report documented military airstrikes that led to 5 bloody massacres where 30 civil- ians were killed and 22 others were injured. While the authorities did not admit to the fall of civilian victims to government gunfire since the beginning of the military operations, the foundation acquired a video documenting an unprecedented confession by govern- ment authorities, namely the governor of North Sinai, admitting to the families of the vic- tims that an airstrike mistakenly targeted a house in al-Gora village in southern al-Sheikh Zuwayed on 27 May 2019, however, the foundation acquired official medical documents stating that the victims of that incident were killed by an airstrike of an unknown source, which is the usual behavior by the authorities to evade responsibility when military oper- ations lead to civilian casualties.
The report documented the Egyptian military intentionally bombing and destroying houses, healthcare centers, and schools in many incidents, as well as forced evacuation campaigns of civilians. It also documented the Egyptian military and police killing 26 civilians and injuring 33 others by random gunfire while no threat or military necessity is present.
The Sinai Foundation reviewed all official press releases issued by the Ministries of Defense and Interior about North Siani. The Ministry of Interior published 21 releases stat- ing a total of 158 persons killed, while the Ministry of Defense published 12 releases stat- ing a total of 548 persons killed. All data points to the victims being armed militants who died in clashes with government forces. The foundation found concrete evidence that government forces provided false information in three official statements published by the Ministries of Defence and Interior spokesmen, which poses many questions about the reliability of those statements and the legality of those killings.
The Sinai Foundation team documented how the Egyptian military and police made tens of unlawful arbitrary arrests of civilians, some of which lasted for months with no official criminal charges or judicial procedures. In other cases, detainees, among whom were women with their children, spent long periods of time in prison to force some of their relatives to turn themselves in to the authorities.
On their side, hundreds of ISIS-affiliate Sinai Province group members killed or abducted and tortured hundreds of Sinai residents. Some of those abuses were based on religious identity, as the group systematically targeted Christians and Sufis, in addition to abducting and executing several local citizens who were not part of any armed hostilities, claiming that they supported the government or even worked in financial projects related to the Egyptian military, as well as executing several captive government soldiers, which are war crimes. The report documented the death of 22 civilians and the injury of 23 others, most of whom were women and children, due to explosive devices planted by the group to target government forces.