Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sept. 22 that Egypt violated international law during the creation of a "buffer zone" between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. According to HRW, the creation of the buffer zone required demolition of more than 3,200 buildings in the Sinai Peninsula between July 2013 and August 2015, resulting in the displacement and eviction of "thousands of families." The Egyptian government maintains that the buffer zone is necessary to prevent the importation of weapons from the Gaza Strip to separatist rebels in Sinai who are affiliated with the Islamic State. HRW asserts that the manner in which the buffer zone was created violated international law in multiple respects, including treatment of civilians and proportionality under the laws of war, the right to housing contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the right to property contained in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right. HRW called on the Egyptian government to halt the demolitions in Sinai, provide for adequate compensation of land owners, create a fair resettlement plan for the displaced, and studying whether less destructive means could be employed to neutralize the smuggling tunnels.
Libya's internationally-recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni on Aug. 19 called for international air-strikes against ISIS and other jihadist factions that have seized territory in the country. Al-Thinni said he wants his own ground forces to direct strikes "from an Arab coalition—either nations on their own or in clusters—to eliminate these groups." He also reiterated his call for the UN arms embargo on Libya, in place since the 2011 revolution, to be lifted. Libya is now split between al-Thinni's government in the east and a rival Islamist-led government that controls the capital, Tripoli. (AP, Aug. 20)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Aug. 17 approved a 54-article counter-terrorism law which has been assailed by Amnesty International and other rights groups as violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international standards to which Egypt is a party. Amnesty warned that the legislation would make permanent powers usually reserved fior a state of emergency, and would effectively overturn the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and free association.
Egypt formally opened an expansion to the Suez Canal on Aug. 6, amid pomp and spectacle. The first ship passed through the new waterway only after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, clad in a military uniform, made his entrance by sailing in on the same yacht that was used at the inaugural bash when the canal first opened in 1869. Performers dressed as pharaohs blared patriotic songs from the shore, as demonstrators filled Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate. Among the dignitaries in attendance for the lavish ceremony were King Abdullah II of Jordan and French President Francois Hollande. "The Egyptian people are rewriting history," said the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Adm. Mohab Mamish. "If the people long for life, then destiny must respond." The project, built in just one year and hailed in the national media as "Egypt's gift to the world," is projected to boost revenues from the Suez Canal from $5.3 billion in 2014 to $13.2 billion in 2023.
Middle East Eye reported July 7 that Egypt's dictatorial President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received a delegation representing the American Jewish Committee (AJC) at his presidential headquarters in Cairo. The delegation, headed by the president of the organization's executive council, Stanley Bergman, discussed ways to "defeat terrorism" and militancy in the region. We'd love to know what the hell Sisi was thinking by agreeing to this meeting. Way to play right into the hands of the jihadis, fool. What a cynical, duplicitous game this guy is playing. Trying to appease the Islamists by sending atheist bloggers to prison, and then cozying up to the dreaded Zionists as an "anti-terrorist" ally. Who does he think he's kidding?
A protester was killed by security forces in Cairo July 3 at a rally in support of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, on the second anniversary of his overthrow by the military. Supporters of Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood said interior ministry forces opened fire on the protest. (Reuters) Egyptian warplanes meanwhile continued air-strikes on militant targets in the Sinai Peninsula, in what Egyptian media and officials are now calling a "war." Army troops also went house-to-house to arrest militants in Rafah. Among six detained were what officials called ISIS followers who wore military uniforms. An ISIS Twitter account claimed credit for missile strikes on Israeli territory by its forces in Sinai. "Three Grad rockets were fired at Jewish positions in occupied Palestine," the "Sinai Province" ISIS group tweeted. (Al Jazeera, AP)
Militants launched near-simultaneous raids on at least five military checkpoints and a police station in and around Sheikh Zuweid in the north of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the wee hours of July 2. At least 100 militants and 17 soldiers were killed in the clashes. Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014, claimed responsibility for the attacks. North Sinai has been under a state of emergency and a curfew since October, when an attack on a checkpoint in el-Arish left dozens of soldiers dead. In a separate development that day, security nine members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, including former MP Nasr al-Hafi, were killed in a police raid on an apartment in western Cairo. Following the riad, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying that several of its leaders had been "murdered... in cold blood" and urged Egyptians to "rise in revolt" agains the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. (BBC News, Egyptian Streets, July 1)
Egypt's chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was killed June 29 in Cairo by a car-bomb attack on his convoy. Barakat's vehicle was attacked by a car outfitted with explosives that was remotely detonated when his motorcade left his home in Heliopolis. The prosecutor's death marks the country's first assassination of a senior official in 25 years, and seems to be the result of retribution attempts by Islamic militants in response to the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. It is believed that Barakat became a target as a result of his role as prosecutor against many Brotherhood members and other Islamists, including former President Mohammed Morsi. An militant group calling itself "Popular Resistance in Giza" claimed responsibility for the remote detonation of the car bomb. While the authorities suspect the Brotherhood for the attack, the organization has denied all involvement.