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HRW warns of “features of humanitarian crisis” in Sinai following Egyptian army campaign against terrorism

EGYPT (OBSERVATORY) –┬áHuman rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday that it feared a “humanitarian crisis” in the Sinai as a result of a military campaign by the Egyptian army against the organization of the Islamic state.

“The Egyptian government’s campaign against the Islamic State Organization branch in northern Sinai has left up to 420,000 people in four cities in the northeast of the country in desperate need of humanitarian assistance,” the New York-based organization said.

Under the title “Egypt: a humanitarian crisis looming,” the organization said the military campaign “included strict restrictions on the movement of people and goods throughout the province almost.” “The operation included closing roads, isolating the cities from each other and isolating the northern Sinai governorate from the Egyptian land, which severely affects the flow of goods,” it said.

“People say they have seen a sharp drop in available supplies of food, medicine, cooking gas and other basic commodities,” she said.

“The authorities banned the sale or use of gasoline for vehicles in the area, and the communications services were cut off for several days at a time. The authorities cut water and electricity almost completely in most of the eastern areas of northern Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.”

“If the current level of restrictions on movement continues, this could lead to a wider humanitarian crisis in a region that is already economically marginalized and continues to suffer from ongoing military operations and house demolitions,” the report said.

The Egyptian army is carrying out a large-scale operation in Sinai against terrorism, which began on February 9 and has so far killed more than 100 jihadists and about 30 Egyptian armed forces, according to army statistics.

The organization called on the Egyptian government to provide “adequate food for the entire population and to allow immediate relief organizations such as the Egyptian Red Crescent to provide resources to meet the critical needs of the local population.”

“Any counterterrorism operation that impairs the access of commodities to hundreds of thousands of civilians is illegal,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of the organization.

Human Rights Watch said it relied in its report on interviewing eyewitnesses, some North Sinai residents or relatives, as well as video footage, satellite images, official data and media reports.

Since the army toppled the Islamic president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 after popular protests against him, the Egyptian security forces, especially in the north and central Sinai, are engaged in violent confrontations against extremist jihadist groups, including the Egyptian branch of the Islamic State Organization (Sinai) responsible for launching a large number of bloody attacks in the country.

The Egyptian army confirms in its statements that the Egyptian armed forces “pay food convoys and distribute large quantities of rations and open many outlets of the National Service Service to provide citizens with all goods, food and living needs.”