Egypt rapped over ‘mass home demolitions, evictions’
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized Egypt for ‘violating’ international law through ‘mass home demolitions and evictions’ over the past two years along its border with the besieged Gaza Strip.
“The large-scale destruction of at least 3,255 buildings in Rafah to counter the threat of smuggling tunnels was likely disproportionate and did not meet Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law or the laws of war,” HRW said in a report released on Tuesday.
The New York-based rights group said since July 2013, “the military has arbitrarily razed thousands of homes in a once-populated buffer zone on the border with the Gaza Strip, destroying entire neighborhoods and hundreds of hectares (acres) of farmland.”
The Egyptian government failed to provide for about 3,200 families in the region during and after their eviction from their homes, the HRW said.
“The Egyptian authorities provided residents with little or no warning of the evictions, no temporary housing, mostly inadequate compensation for their destroyed homes,” the report read, adding, “The Egyptian army has failed to explain why it cannot use… non-destructive means for detecting and neutralizing tunnels.”
It also noted that Egyptian soldiers reportedly received training for detecting and neutralizing tunnels from the US army since 2008.
Egypt has also been pumping water from the Mediterranean Sea into underground tunnels used by Palestinians to transfer essential supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip.
The 84-page report compiled by the rights group includes interviews with 11 evicted families, journalists and activists in Sinai, and satellite images of the buffer zone between March 2013 and August 2015.
Back in October, Egypt’s army created a wide buffer zone along the border town of Rafah north of the Sinai Peninsula. Cairo has repeatedly claimed that the area is where tunnels have allowed ‘militants and weapons’ in from the Palestinian enclave into Egyptian territory.
“Though Egyptian military officials — and occasionally their Israeli counterparts — have alleged that armed groups in the Sinai use the tunnels to receive weapons and logistical support from Gaza, they have not provided proof,” the report concluded.
Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s head for the Middle East and North Africa told AFP that, “destroying homes, neighborhoods, and livelihoods is a textbook example of how to lose a counterinsurgency campaign.”
“The United States and other Western nations that arm [Egyptian PresidentAbdel Fattah] el-Sisi’s government, look the other way when his forces abuse citizens under the dubious logic,” that he is aiding the fight against the Daesh, Whitson also said.
Scores of Egyptian police officers and soldiers have been killed by militants since the overthrow of deposed president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 by the then army chief, el-Sisi.